We need a break, I think, from the political posts today. But there’s a lot in the hopper. Here’s what’s planned for How to Save the World for November:

  • We’ll Take Turns Being Strong: The Eight Fronts of the Resistance Against Bush [Politics – US]
  • The Wisdom of Crowds in Business, Part 2 [Business – Innovation]
  • Why I Sometimes Don’t Make ‘Sense’ [Environmental Philosophy]
  • The Abrogation of Personal Responsibility [Politics – the Political Process]
  • The Power of Many (book review, and discussion on making the leap from virtual to face-to-face communication) [Technology]
  • An Homage to Readers [Literature]
  • Why You Can’t Jam the Culture [Arts & Sciences]
  • Reinventing Broadcast News [Business – Innovation]
  • Writing ‘Honest’ Stories [Literature]
  • Hunting for Intelligence [Politics – the Political Process]
  • Surviving Trauma [Arts & Sciences]
  • The Politics of Fear [Politics]
  • Recipe for Bioterror [Politics]

If you think any of these topics is especially interesting, steal it and start the discussion without me, and send me a link to your post, or e-mail me your thoughts if you’re blogless. If you think there’s something sorely missing, give me a nudge and I’ll add it to the list.

Today’s post is inspired by a documentary on the new, critically-acclaimed animated film The Incredibles (don’t judge it by the typically lame Disney website — watch the ‘Making Of’ documentary instead). As intrigued as I was with Final Fantasy, it was merely high art. The Incredibles, by contrast, is pure science. Instead of the painstaking computer animation of most films, the producers of this film have developed what might be called ‘meta-programming’: They wrote simulation algorithms for each item of clothing, and for facial features and hair, that automatically program the realistic movement of these objects in response to an understanding of how the character ‘wearing them’ is ‘moving’. And they do that even when the character makes moves that in the real world are physically impossible. This is artificial intelligence in action, and it’s mind-blowing. This kind of programming, and visual AI, can actually stimulate your ability to imagine the impossible. It’s powerful, important stuff.

Among the most remarkable opportunities that this technology begins to introduce is the ability of amateurs to make our own movies. It’s only been a decade since composing, recording and selling your own symphony or rock song, completely solo, even if you can’t read music or play a note on any musical instrument, passed from being a fantasy to almost boringly commonplace. Final Fantasy raised the bar further, showing that for action films anyway, a synthetic actor is every bit as believable and sympathetic as the real thing (even moreso if the star is one of those ghastly and staggeringly incompetent scientology cultists). It is entirely conceivable to me that, before another decade has passed, anyone with a basic PC and a creative mind will be able to write, produce, direct and distribute, with no other technology and no assistance whatsoever, a credible, quality, full-length motion picture, complete with soundtrack. Imagine the consequences for:

  • education and the teaching of language and the arts
  • simulations and video games
  • story and play writers, who’ll be able, and perhaps expected, to write the soundtrack and provide the video as well
  • music videos (will they evolve to become short stories, or fables, like Eminem’s Mosh?)
  • intellectual property law that today protects any ‘representation’ of a famous person from being used for commercial purposes without approval and payment of royalties (even editorial cartoonists have had to fight this law, to be able to pursue their craft)
  • big-budget films and Oscar (no I won’t put an R in a circle after it) categories
  • the line in film between the real and the imaginary

The Incredibles uses big-name stars for the voice-tracks. The question is why? It’s not to draw crowds: Pixar is such a consistent and proven brand that it’s all you need to credentialize your film. My guess is it’s to lull the stars into a false sense of job security until voice replication software gets to the point ‘real’ actors are completely superfluous, and, just as Final Fantasy created characters that were larger than life, flawless, almost dreamily perfect (there is a theory that the more perfectly symmetrical and ‘average’ a person’s facial features are, the more beautiful they are perceived to be, and real people can’t get close to computer simulations by that standard), the nextgen synthetic voice will be more melodic, more ballsy, more perfect and fluid and seductive than any real voice. In fact, Writer-Director Brad Bird actually supplies some of the voices in the movie himself. He’s been making movies since he was 11, and could probably have made this one completely by himself. Soon, we’ll all be able to do so.

Writing will never be the same.

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  1. “We’ll Take Turns Being Strong: The Eight Fronts of the Resistance Against Bush [Politics – US]”I’d like to see a Canadian slant to this as well as the Bush policies are having an effect on Canadians. In particular any information that any American organization has access to can be viewed by the U.S. government no matter where or how that information was obtained. Currently in British Columbia there are privacy concerns regarding the BC governments decision to outsource certain aspects of medical record keeping to and American company. This is serious stuff and we as Canadians must also fight to ensure that our governments do everything they can to protect our privacy rights. This is always important but becomes even more important with Bush being reelected.We also need a plan to ensure our government stands up to American pressure on a number of things including supporting American foreign policy as well as the missile defence treaty. There is a decent change that there will be another Canadian election within the year and we must ensure that a pro-Amerian conservative government led by Stephen Harper does not win any election.As interesting, and as important, as American politics are we must not forget what is happening at home, here in Canada.

  2. feith says:

    Every one of the Kidlets in my house want to see The Incredibles and you’ve convinced me to take them. They’ll thank you. :)Feithy

  3. Gary says:

    I took my 14-year-old son to Pixar a couple of weeks ago to see a presentation by the artists and animators of The Incredibles, and what can I say – it was incredible. People will be able to make their own movies, but I think the only ones who have time and energy to learn the sophisticated software for this kind of thing are today’s (and tomorrow’s) kids. We quizzed the artists about where an interested, talented young person should head out of high school to develop a career. The response was uniform: Don’t focus on software. Pixar will train talented candidates in using the software. They want to see traditional art skills – drawing, sculpture, acting and story-telling. They’re much more interested in someone who can develop and interesting and believable character than they are in the ability to render it in 3D.Never the less, my son and a friend have written a script for a short film based on Matt Groening’s popular (and discontinued) TV series Futurama. He’s been spending every spare non school-oriented hour on the project. You can see some of his models and first animation attempts at keep telling him to slow down, there’s no rush, bu this is the kind of thing that can turn into an obsession. Brad Bird began making his first movie at 11, but I believe he didn’t finish it until he was 14.Gary Newman

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    David: There will be a Canadian slant, especially with the news today that Bush plans to photograph and fingerprint every Canadian crossing the border, every time they cross, to monitor against the incompetent Homeland Security’s arbitrary, erroneous, million-name ‘terrorist lists’, starting next year. Paul Martin should have the balls to tear up NAFTA, walk away from the ludicrous, colossally expensive and non-functional North American missile defence shield, and tell Bush he’s not welcome in Canada. What total bullshit — there is absolutely no evidence that these bureaucratic, humiliating, and horrendously costly (and outright dangerous if you’re not white) ‘security’ procedures have any effect whatsoever on security, and they cost billions. It’s pure fear-mongering, and it’s an insult to us.Feith: Just a note that the makers of the film say it’s not appropriate for very young children (scary, not language or any of that stuff).Gary: What a wonderful story! Bravo to your son — he’s off to a terrific start. This is the kind of ‘obsession’ that once made America great. There’s a Canadian connection here too — much of the technology foundation that Pixar has built its magic on was invented by a Toronto company called Alias|Wavefront.

  5. All these added border controls are only going to hurt the U.S. in the long run. It was not long after the U.S. beefed up border security that Cuba upped the amount of time foreigners could stay in Cuba from 3 months to 6 months. Cuba’s goal is to attract Canadian snowbirds to Cuba instead of Florida. I am sure Bush would love to hear he is diverting snowbirds/tourists from Florida to Cuba.BTW, I thought Canadians were exempt from the fingerprint and photo process.–Mocny and his officials were visiting Toronto and Montreal yesterday to talk to trade and trucking groups about the U.S.-VISIT program, which requires everyone except Canadian citizens to be photographed and finger-scanned before they’re allowed into the United States.–But I do agree. It isn’t really going to work. Let’s assume that they could find technology that was foolproof and worked flawlessly. Whats to stop a terrorist from entering through Mexico illegally just like all those Mexicans do, or across some remote portion of the Canadian border or canoe across the St. Lawrence at night.The worst thing about the missle defence is not that it won’t work (see Patriot missles shooting down friendly jets in Iraq while success rates shooting down missiles are poor at best) or that it will cost a lot. The worse part is that it could start another arms race. If the missle defense system is capable of shooting down 5 missiles simultaneously, the enemy builds 10 missiles. So they upgrade it so it can shoot down 10 simultaneously. So the enemy builds 30 missiles. And on it goes. Canada should not be a part of that.

  6. Eric says:

    You might consider that they use big name human actors because they can act. The best and most believable character is Plastigirl, because Holly Hunter is the best actor in the film.

  7. Creford says:

    How wonderful it is! Today, I had seen the film – “The Incredibles” this afternoon, my father also had seen this film in this evening. This cartoon movie is powered by Disney-Pixar.In this film, I love the people’s sensation, scene, bugbears. The scene is so sublime.With the great imagination.

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