Groundbreaking Animation Movies – Paranorman

It’s now over three years since the film was released yet, although it might look like just another family animation film but the production of ParaNorman used some cutting edge techniques.  The workhorse of this production was a bank of four very powerful 3d printers which were essential to production on the film.  The film was created using a technique called Stop-Motion.  This method was actually developed over a century ago and involves using puppet models that are moved slightly to create the next frame and the illusion of movement.

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The method is very successful but incredibly time consuming mainly down to people’s expressions.  To complete small movements in the facial expressions, traditionally each look would be sculpted from clay by hand.  However for this film the makers – Laika used the printers.  They had stored on computer a bank of nearly nine thousand 3d faces for just the main character.  Playing around with the various combinations could increase the variations to over 1 million.

They are not the first company to use these sophisticated printers, the famous British company Aardman used them aswell.  In fact their latest film – The Pirates used this technology extensively.  Animators would select  the expressions or looks that they needed then use the 3 printers to produce the finished product.

You can see how essential the printers are to these productions by the amount of work they have done.  In all they used nearly 4 tonnes of ink toner between them.  They were used a total of 572 days mainly printing out the thousands of facial impressions that are required in this production.

As for the film, it is excellent and well worth seeing.   There’s a great little show on the Hulu site at the moment with more on ParaNorman.  You ‘ll need to find way to change your address like a safe VPN – such as this to view though.  This is because Hulu has now locked all it’s content down for visitors from outside the US.  Don’t worry though it’s not that hard to use a VPN to hide your real location from the server.

Citation – additional information

Apple Purchases Digital Media Publisher

PRSS is a relatively new firm based in the Netherlands which provides a simple platform for building digital magazines.  There’s long been a debate about the future of magazines and whether they have one, but now it seems that the smart money is looking towards the digital format to save the genre.

We’ve probably all seen a favorite magazine disappear over the last decade or so, along with newspapers and comics from our childhood.  But if you’ve ever looked online you might be surprised to find the number of titles that actually exist in digital format.  It makes sense really, all the digital devices we use are capable of downloading and viewing magazines.  They also have the huge advantage of being instantly available by download and distribution costs are very low compared with traditional magazines.

 

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PRSS owns a platform that makes it much easier to produce high quality magazines online without a team of web designers and coders.  It’s kind of like a version of iBooks Author but just focused at the magazine market.    In many ways it seems a sensible acquisition for the technology giant, a platform that makes it cheaper and easier to produce content that can go straight into the digital news stand and into the iTunes store.

It’s the production of digital content which is essential to Apple, and by taking control of a platform which enables this to happen they’re actually controlling some of the verticals of the magazine production.   What the future holds for the platform is unsure, this maybe simply an exercise in grabbing some design talent from the firm.

Hopefully initiatives like these will allow magazines to flourish in digital format, however there are still many concerns for their future.  One is that for many magazines particularly in niche markets is their potential audience.  You would expect that a digital format would make this much simpler to reach more people but often this doesn’t work out.  In many media markets like films and TV, companies are actually restricting access based on location – so for instance you need to change your IP address to watch most US media sites from outside America – here’s how.  It’s not just the TV stations, big firms like Netflix restrict what you watch to your physical location, so to access the British version you’d need either a UK proxy or to connect from that country.

More here

The Netflix Expansion Continues

It’s taken years, and certainly months of speculation but the world of media entertainment is about to change in Australia and New Zealand – yes Netflix is finally arriving. The US based subscription service announced this week that they would be launching it’s latest region service next March. It’s likely to have a huge impact on traditional TV services and the established channels.

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Why is it such big news? Well there’s no doubt that Netflix has made a huge impact wherever it has opened but traditionally the Australian/New Zealand TV space has always been very un-competitive. From my own experience I found it to be much less watchable than TV stations in other English speaking channels, there was a distinct lack of quality compared with say British or Canadian TV. I should stress that my opinion was only based on a few brief holidays over the years.

Although popular opinion seems to think something similar, with many Australians often seeming to complain about the quality of free-to air TV broadcasting. The risk is however much bigger for the Pay-to-view services, with the cost of Netflix expected to be at a similar price to the current offerings in Australia. Netflix is a big player on the world media stage, with services spread across North America and most of Europe already, they are planning to invest almost $7 billion in content next year – something that the local pay per view stations will struggle to match.

However there are more complications, one of them being that 200,000 people in Australia already access the US version of Netflix. They set up accounts and then use a US based VPN to access the content, needed to hide their IP addresses – check this out – http://www.proxyusa.com/change-netflix-to-us-version which shows one such advanced method. Whether Netflix will do anythign about this remains to be seen, after all they’re already customers, the circumvention doesn’t stop customers paying for the service merely being blocked from the service.

Here’s a lost of the shows promised to headline in Australian Netflix for 2015 –

  • Bloodline: A thriller investigating “the demons that lurk beneath the surface of a contemporary family”. Stars Australian Ben Mendelsohn.
  • Daredevil: Superhero action series based on the Marvel comic character, starring Charlie Cox with Vincent D’Onofrio and Deborah Ann Woll.
  • Grace and Frankie: Comedy starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda about two women forced to cooperate when they learn their husbands are planning to run off together.
  • Sense8: Science fiction drama co-written and co-written by the teams behind The Matrix and Babylon 5.
  • Marco Polo: Adventure series following the early years of explorer Marco Polo in the court of Kublai Khan.
  • BoJack Horseman: Animated sitcom following a four-legged celebrity trying to restart his career in a world where horses and humans communicate.
  • All Hail King Julien: Spin-off from the successful Madagascar films following the island’s Lemur king.

For further details on the technical modification required above, please see this video

A Single Digital Market – EU’s Goal

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One of the core values of the European Union is to eliminate trade barriers of all sorts.  It is now beginning to look at the huge and growing digital market.  The EU has already confronted Google in the courts over it’s alleged restrictive practices and now it’s hoping to produce a model for the digital world.

The plan is simply to create a single digital market which would bring some standardisation of things like copyright, sales and of course taxes.  It is hoped that this will both stimulate and legitimize the digital market and bring benefits to all economies.

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The larger companies are already sensing the changes, this month Amazon announced it was restructuring it’s business in order to operate more fairly.   Currently the vast majority of Amazon’s sales are processed in Luxembourg allowing them to avoid heavy tax costs in the European countries were these sales are actually generated.  It is becoming increasingly unpopular and officials are likely to prepare legislation soon.

One of the biggest areas that hopefully be addressed is that of geo-blocking across the digital market.  This is where companies prevent people buying or using services depending on their location, that is stopping an EU citizen purchase something from other EU member states – which is clearly not in the spirit of the free trade EU.

It’s been apparent for many years and the practice is estimated to cost 415 billion euros as customers are forced to payer higher prices based on their location.  It is even apparent in public broadcasting too where you need a proxy for BBC iPlayer like this – http://iplayerusa.org/index.php/proxy-to-access-bbc-iplayer-abroad/ to watch anything if you’re based outside of the UK.

It’s not just Europe that this happens in, the practice is also common across the US as well.  You can’t access most of the world’s biggest media sites if you’re in the wrong country, as I discovered trying to login to my Hulu account while on holiday in Canada last month.

It’s good to see this status quo challenged, priced discrimination and geo-blocking is becoming endemic across the internet and it doesn’t need to be like this.  Countries wouldn’t accept these restrictive practices in other areas so why should we accept it in the online world.   Break down these barriers and we encourage more trade, more competition and importantly more opportunities within the digital world.

Read more about British TV Abroad – http://www.uktv-online.com/online-british-tv-abroad/

US Economy Starts to Slow

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US Economy — That was unrevised from the prediction the authorities last month printed.

Strong consumer spending restricted the slow down in the rate of action, although companies restrained back on equipment and stock investment. The market grew in the 3rd quarter. Slower investment could be meant by slower profit increase in the forthcoming months.
Corporate gains from outside the USA dropped at an 8.8 percent speed, the steepest drop since the 2007-2009 downturn.

“Slower profit increase could mean slower investment in the forthcoming months,” said Thomas Costerg, an economist at Standard Chartered in Ny.

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Multinationals including technology giant IBM (IBM), semiconductor manufacturer Intel (INTC), industrial conglomerate Honeywell (HON) and Procter & Gamble (PG), the planet ‘s biggest household products manufacturer, have warned the dollar will damage their gains in 2013.

As in the United Kingdom, there is increasing worry about the strong value of their currencies. Although sterling is not as highly valued as the dollar currency, the very weak Euro is effectively having the same effect. For US readers, UK economy updates are accessible on British television by using a UK VPN – like this.  The problem is quite simple, a high value (or relative value) of your currency makes your goods more expensive which will affect exports.

The dollar increased 7.8 percent against the currencies of the primary U.S. trading associates between June and December.

For all of 2014, after tax corporate profits dropped 8.3 percent, the biggest annual fall since 2008.

Economists had anticipated fourth quarter GDP growth will be revised as much as a 2.4 percent rate and after tax corporate profits would grow at a 1 percent pace.

The dollar dipped against a basket of currencies, while costs for U.S. Treasuries increased.

Jemma Williams

Website

US Economy Generates Over 1 Million New Jobs

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Washington (AFP) – US companies kept their doors wide open for brand new hires limiting a three-month surge that found a stunning one million jobs created throughout the united states.  A better-than-anticipated January total of 257,000 new jobs that were generated via the internet made for the greatest hiring with a comprehensive variety of businesses enlarging payrolls despite the midwinter economic slow down, since 1997.

Together with the market indicating the 11th straight month of 200,000-plus occupations included, “This was another very powerful employment report for the US,” said Harm Bandholz of UniCredit. Most economists said the new data showed actual signals of the market increasing grip following a bumpy 2014 during which it grew a small 2.4 percent.

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There were weaknesses in the amounts Most of the recent occupations were low-wage positions as well as how many long term jobless increased.  Meanwhile a rise a data point saw as an important indication of labor market tightening — was just marginally over the inflation tendency. After dropping in December, hourly wages increased 12 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $24.75.

While the rise was supporting, economists said the wage movements in the last year were not too consistent to declare that American workers’ pay checks are securely rising.

“The labor market isn’t yet tight enough to create significant wage increase, meaning future consumption increase is likely to be restricted,” said Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

However, said Chris Williamson the Labor Department report was largely great news.

“The US labor market showed no signs of cooling in the beginning of the year, despite recent evidence to indicate the economy moved down an equipment throughout winter,” he said in a client note.

“Wage increase remains a significant disappointment but is at least showing signals of picking up.”

The upsurge in job development in the previous year has dramatically cut against the US unemployment rate. The 5.7 percent speed at the conclusion of January compared with 6.6 percent a year past, and 8.0 percent at the start of 2013.  Analysts consider it is going to drop close to 5.0 percent by the end of this year, eventually placing the deep damage of the 2008-2009 Great Downturn behind.

The January occupations marketplace report was seen as powerful enough to support the march of the Federal Reserve toward increasing its near-zero interest rates at the center of the year.  Fed policy makers happen to be keeping their eyes on employment increases and particularly wages to determine whether the market is growing strongly enough to weather a tightening of monetary policy, with inflation tame.

“With three-month average job increase of 336,000, the Fed may begin thinking about liftoff before June,” said Chris Low of FTN Financial.

John Hargreaves

Author of – How to Hide IP Address