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Google Buys Zync Cloud Graphics Rendering Service

Thagg Re:I don't understand this... (20 comments)

It turns out that the software used in VFX rendering is pretty darn expensive. Licenses of RenderMan, for example, were several thousand dollars a node (RenderMan just lowered their prices, it's true). Nuke, Maya, and other tools were similarly expensive.

The companies that created the software typically wouldn't consider licensing on shorter terms than six months; which made scaling up for a big movie very expensive. Zync managed to negotiate deals that would allow them to license software on an hourly basis. That is their real innovation.


Seagate Ships First 8 Terabyte Hard Drive

Thagg Re: Switched double speed half capacity, realistic (297 comments)

Curious. Back in the stone ages (12 years ago) we had a 53 GB 12-platter drive (The box said "Solve your disk space storage problems forever!") that had a head fail. I was able to recover 22/23rds of the data, but it was clear that the data was recorded from one platter to the next all the way through the stack, and then the heads moved. Back in that day (I don't know if it's still true) one side of one of the platters just contained alignment information.


Is Dolby Atmos a Flop For Home Theater Like 3DTV Was?

Thagg Re:You only have two ears. (197 comments)

We have two ears, but you might notice that the ears have fairly complicated geometry. Why would that be? Well, it turns out that the various parts of the ear bounce sound, and sound coming from different directions, both azimuth and elevation, bounces differently. Your brain is very good at figuring this out. This wikipedia page on Sound Localization is quite informative.

It turns out that humans have among the best direction-sensing hearing of any animal.

[disclaimer -- I work for Dolby, but in their imaging group]

about two weeks ago

My degree of colorblindness:

Thagg Allergic to peanuts... (267 comments)

I drove across the country with a good friend, who is severely red-green colorblind. About once a day, he would offer me peanuts, even though I'm deathly allergic to them, and then he'd laugh, and say "oh, these are really good." After five days of this, as we were driving across Colorado after a storm, I stopped to look at a stunning rainbow, and he's like "ooh, ok, fine, whatever"

He's a very successful computer animator and landscape painter. It helps that he is super-smart, but I still can't imagine how he does it.

about three weeks ago

Skype Blocks Customers Using OS-X 10.5.x and Earlier

Thagg Re:Not without warning. (267 comments)

"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'."

about three weeks ago

How Facebook Sold You Krill Oil

Thagg Re:I've bought stuff from Facebook... (114 comments)

Bill, this advice "make the ad as incipid[sic] and vapid as possible, to save on non-converting clicks." makes so much sense, and is so obvious, that it must be happening already. This was pioneered by the the Nigerian scammers (originally snail-mail, now mostly email.)

It does make me disheartened about the future of the ad-supported internet.

about three weeks ago

Favorite "Go!" Phrase?

Thagg Re:Go phrases for failures (701 comments)

Plenty of times I can use the "Roger, go with throttle up." Thanks.

about a month ago

Harley-Davidson Unveils Their First Electric Motorcycle

Thagg Re:As a Motorcyclist, I Declare "Meh" (345 comments)

*sigh* that's a Suzuki DL-650 Vstrom, not a Honda. The new one does get about 60mpg, my 2009 only about 55.

I agree with those that say that, unfortunately, this is not going to be a successful bike. I really like the idea of an electric motorcycle, but it should come from a company that does exactly that. H-D fans aren't going to want it, and the insane high price that they will charge for the nameplate will keep others from buying it. I'd love a 60 mile-range electric bike that cost $10,000. I'd buy it tomorrow, but this isn't that.

about 2 months ago

Century-Old Drug Reverses Signs of Autism In Mice

Thagg Re:Can a company patent it? (207 comments)

Yes, one can often patent a drug for a new purpose. You probably can't charge $1,000/dose for a repurposing, but it can be done.

The absolutely shocking prevalence of autism today (currently estimated at 1 in 68 births, probably 1 in 40 boys) will make any drug that has a good effect profitable.

As the parent of an autistic teenager, I'm hoping for the best. It does appear that, like Tolstoy said, all autistic kids are autistic in their own way; so I'm not holding out a lot of hope. Some, though...

about 2 months ago

Google To Spend $1 Billion On Fleet of Satellites

Thagg Re:Would there be one launch per satellite? (170 comments)

Certainly not. These are very small satellites, probably will be launched something like 20 at a time. Maybe 9 orbital planes with 20 satellites each?

about 3 months ago

Google To Spend $1 Billion On Fleet of Satellites

Thagg 180 satellites... (170 comments)

Kind of like a social network of satellites :)

Seriously, this makes a lot of sense. At the low altitudes that these will fly, the power necessary to reach the satellites will be much lower than geosynchronous or even Iridium satellites. Mass producing small satellites probably is cheaper than building a few big ones, as well.

about 3 months ago

Proton-M Rocket Carrying Russia's Most Advanced Satellite Crashes

Thagg Elon should launch for Baikonur (160 comments)

After all, the first stage could land safely in the uninhabited steppe to the east.

about 3 months ago

Airbus E-Fan Electric Aircraft Makes First Flight

Thagg Re:Want (160 comments)

Yeah, if you just replace the back seat occupant with an equivalent mass of batteries, you could get twice the range.

about 3 months ago

Apple's Revenge: iMessage Might Eat Your Texts If You Switch To Android

Thagg Re:Auto switches (415 comments)

Hm. Failed to enable. Is this a new feature? Indeed, you can have iMessage send as SMS -- I didn't have that set up. It's in Settings->Messages->Send_as_SMS

about 3 months ago

Apple's Revenge: iMessage Might Eat Your Texts If You Switch To Android

Thagg Re:Auto switches (415 comments)

Just not true, or at least it wasn't a few months ago. My daughter switched to Android and I couldn't text her until she finally remembered her Apple ID and we could log into their servers and disable her account. We used the Samsung page for guidance, and it worked just fine. But by itself, my phone kept silently failing to send her messages.

about 3 months ago

Mathematical Model Suggests That Human Consciousness Is Noncomputable

Thagg Re:Bad syllogism (426 comments)

In fact, it's pretty clear that 4. is incorrect. There was a fascinating recent study.

There is a drug that you can give somebody (or in this experiment, a rat) that will prevent it from creating new memories. They trained the rat to solve a maze, and it did it just fine. They gave the rat the drug, and it solved the maze perfectly. Once. After that, it couldn't do it again.

Implying that when you remember something, that very process of remembering removes the original memory,and it has to be created again. It will be different the second time; colored by your current experience. The more times you remember something, the more you are remembering the previous memory, not the original event.

A reference is

about 4 months ago

Sony Warns Demand For Blu-Ray Diminishing Faster Than Expected

Thagg Headline exactly wrong (477 comments)

The FA says that Blu-ray disc sales are increasing, but overall disk sales are slowing because DVDs are contracting so quickly.

Quoting the article. "Last year, about 124 million Blu-ray discs were sold in the U.S., a 4.2% increase over 2012, according to IHS Technology. Even so, because of reduced pricing for the format, revenue only increased 2.6%. DVD sales, which have been plummeting for years, dropped 13.6% last year."

Blu-ray data rates are far higher than anything you can stream today, and people who care about that (not many of the commenters apparently :) ) apparently are still buying discs.

I do come from the movie business, so I surely have a different perspective; but to filmmakers quality is paramount.

about 4 months ago

Star Cluster Ejected From Galaxy At 2,000,000 MPH

Thagg Hard to imagine cluster holding together... (133 comments)

For a three-body slingshot to work, the object would have to get pretty close to one or both of the black holes -- considerably closer than the size of a globular cluster. At that distance, the tidal forces around the black holes would rip the cluster apart. I just can't see this happening.

I suppose it's time to do some simulations :)

about 4 months ago

Aereo To SCOTUS: Shut Us Down and You Shut Down Cloud Storage

Thagg The "antenna array" is a McGuffin (342 comments)

The antenna array is a beautiful piece of marketing by Aereo. Who could object to renting an antenna?

And, in fact, if the output of that antenna -- that is, the radio-frequency signal -- was transmitted to the home (as CableVision was doing back in the day) I think that Aereo would have an slam dunk. But that's not what they are doing.

They are converting the microwatt signal coming out of these antennas a few times. First, they are separating out just the channel that the user wants to watch, then they are digitizing that signal and encoding it onto the internet. That's what I don't think they are allowed to do, and that's why I believe they'll be shut down.

about 4 months ago


Thagg hasn't submitted any stories.



Late 07 update

Thagg Thagg writes  |  more than 6 years ago

In Catholic Confession, you start out by saying how long it's been since your last confession -- fortunately, I gave up being a strict Catholic some time ago, so I don't have to say how long since my last journal entry.

I'm starting now at Visual Effects Supervisor for Fast and Furious 4, we're bringing back Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and a bunch of the other characters from the first three movies for one more run around the track. I've been involved in the first three as a VFX supervisor for my own company, this time I'm involved from the production side, and it's a whole different deal. Very exciting, a lot more responsibility, a million more things to keep straight. Fortunately, I have a good producer, Lori Nelson, and the work is similar to what I've done in the previous three movies, so I've got a bit of a running start.

I'm finally going to go over to the white side (as opposed to the dark side) and am getting a Macbook Pro to help with this movie. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Linux zealot, but at some point you just want to share information and movies and databases with the world of Mac users...and it's difficult to do that legally under Linux. So, we'll see how it goes! OSX has become closer to Linux over the years, so it's not such a radical a leap as it was.

In other news, my daughter's off to college at Washington University in St Louis, and my boy is in fourth grade, still struggling with autism, but having a pretty good time while doing it. We're still persuing the ABA therapy paradigm, it really seems to be the best program out there. He's taking Lexapro as well, in a very small dose, and it just seems to make everything in his life 100% better, so if you're a parent of a kid with autism, you might try it out.

I promise to update this journal sooner next time. Really.



Every 2 years, whether I need it or not, I update my journal

Thagg Thagg writes  |  about 10 years ago It's been a wild couple of years. We've done a lot of work on some big films, but the biggest one was The Chronicles of Riddick. For that film, we had to grow the company to 60 people, and some 150 computers. It was by far the best work we'd ever done, but it was also by far the hardest project we've ever done.

We're now looking at a bunch of new projects, some big and some small. It's a pretty quiet time in the FX industry right now.

I'm excited about the new 2.6 kernel and all that comes with it -- it seems to address many performance issues we've had with Linux in the past -- especially in terms of disk and filesystem performance. Right new we're using Fedora Core 2, which has its good and bad points. It is very cutting edge, and has all the latest whiz-bang features -- but it also changes very quickly which can be scary in production.



Thagg Thagg writes  |  more than 12 years ago

Well, we've finished work on Blue Crush, the surfing movie. The challenge here was to replace the face of the world-class surfer Rochelle Ballard with the face of the actress Katie Bosworth; the star of the movie. It was one of the biggest risks that I have taken in FX, as I have never seen face-replacement done well in these kind of challenging action situations.

Now we begin work on The Core and The Fast and The Furious 2. The former presents artistic rather than technical challenges, and the second has the primary challenge being the acquisition of the photographic material without killing the stunt people.

I'm looking forward to building a small gyro system to track the rotations of the cameras for tFatF2. The Systron Donner GyroChipII seems like the best sensor for this application, although it has been suggested to me that there are new gyros being used in the underwater ROV market that I should look at.

Because it's such a big part of my life, and because journals should reflect that, I'll add a short bit about my son with autism, Thomas. He's almost five, and it's been an interesting three years since his diagnosis. For the first nine months we had him in speech therapy plus preschool, thinking that speech was the primary problem. In July two years ago, we were fortunate enough to have Thomas accepted into the program at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) program; through which he gets about 35 hours a week of behavior-modification type therapy. We've also tried various biomedical interventions, on the chance that they'd work; primarily a gluten-free, casien-free (GFCF) diet and a moderate course of chelation for possible heavy-metal poisoning. For some unknown combination of reasons, he's become remarkably better over the last three months or so, becoming more verbal and socially apt. We're desparately hoping (and planning, and working) to keep him in preschool one more year at the spectacularly good program that he has been in for the last year. Another year of therapy and preschool very well might allow him to go to kindergarten a year from now with minimal assistance.

Aside from work, and taking care of Thomas, there's not all that much more going on -- althogh taking care of Thomas is becoming more and more delightful as he shows signs of recovery.


Academy award for visual effects

Thagg Thagg writes  |  more than 12 years ago

Well, I've got another week to get our packet together for the visual effects bakeoff. I think that I'm going to write mostly about the shot fx6, the 'hinge shot', going across the street to then into Paul Walker's car. The whole idea of course is to show that we can do a bunch of really cool stuff, quickly, inexpensively.

We'll see!

Of course, I have my real work to do in the meantime, on Showtime, Surf Girls, White Oleander, The Tuxedo, Final Destination 2, ...



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