Movies

On Gollum sinking into lava

Wired had this interesting article which states:

Gollum, if you remember, dove into the lava of Mount Doom after his precious ring was thrown in — he proceeds to sink into the lava (see below) and leaves the ring floating on the lava until it melts away. Guess what? Sinking into lava just will not happen if you’re a human (or remotely human). You’d need to be a Terminator to sink into molten rock/metal …

On a discussion of the article on some other site, author John Scalzi wrote:

In a film with spiders of physically impossible size, talking trees, ugly warriors birthed out of mud and a disembodied malevolence causing a ring to corrupt the mind of anyone who wears it (and also turn them invisible), we’re going to complain that the lava is not viscous enough?

I can understand Scalzi’s point, but I disagree with his argument that one shouldn’t complain about the physics of Middle Earth lava just because one has accepted the existence of fantastical Middle Earth creatures.

I agree with Scalzi when he writes:

… you should consider the work in its totality and ask whether in the context of the work, this specific thing is inconsistent with the worldbuilding.

I’d also add (though it should be obvious) that this will be a subjective issue. Some people can more easily suspend their disbelief about certain things than others. If your area of expertise includes lava, lava falsehoods will stand out to you more than talking trees (and Ents are not trees, by the way).

Personally, the lava issue doesn’t bother me, but I’ve never seen a living creature fall into lava before. And it’s not something I ever really want to see. But if I did see such a thing, aside from being scarred and depressed for the rest of my sad sorry life, I can understand why Gollum’s death goop might stop working for me, even while I accept all the other magic of Middle Earth. There’s nothing in the story that signifies that the lava should behave in any other way than it does here on earth. Similarly, gravity behaves the same way, temperature behaves the same way, elf and hobbit and wizard emotions behave the same way. So it’s not like we assume that everything is so different that we have to just accept everything that comes our way.

Imagine if Gollum had bounced on the lava as if it were a trampoline. Who would accept that? Would me saying “hey, you accepted talking trees!” make you change your mind? I doubt it. You expect the lava to behave a certain way in the context of the story.

I would say that most audiences accept the physics of Gollum’s death because that is exactly how most of us imagine falling into lava should look, because most of us haven’t witnessed creatures falling into lava before. When we watch videos of rivers of lava pouring down the side of a volcano, it looks as viscous as it does in Gollum’s death scene. So our acceptance of the physics of Gollum’s death is based on our own lava-physics ignorance, not on our consideration of our own acceptance of the wizards and talking trees and giant spiders that preceded it. This lava-physics ignorance is also what makes the Wired article interesting at all in the first place (at least to me). It’s fun and educational!

Also, I think we could argue that as the lava liquefies Gollum’s innards, because the ring of power has turned him into the ugly gross unnatural goblin-like creature he is, his unnatural innards would liquefy in such a way that they mix in the lava in such a way that what we see in the movie makes perfect sense. That is, the Wired article may be right about the physics of the lava, but it hath no knowledge about the physics of melting Gollum guts, which might become extremely dense at high temperatures. (Sure, why not?)  Or perhaps his skin vaporizes easily at lava temperatures, and lava pours into muscles and bones.  He’s not really sinking; he’s being pulled down by the flow of the lava.  Why didn’t Tolkien specify these sorts of things?  He could’ve had an entire section of the appendix for this!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Purchases

Animation Mentor, new camera, and LOTR on blu-ray

Last night at 12 AM I had my 2nd first Animation Mentor Q&A, and it was awesome. The mentor, David Weatherly, was great, as were the classmates. The mentor’s actually from Virginia and went to Virginia Tech, one of the universities I had been accepted to and was thinking about. He’s currently at Dreamworks, which is a bit envy-inducing (in a good inspiring way) when he mentions how great the working conditions are.

Anyway, it’s so far shaping up to be a fun semester! Then again, I haven’t started doing any of the work yet, so I hope I don’t stink too much…

I also bought a couple things yesterday. Bought a new camera, the Canon PowerShot SX130IS. It’s not nearly the super-fanciest camera in the world, but for my simple purposes, it will work wonderfully. It’s great at auto-adjusting to almost any lighting conditions, whereas my cheaper camera can’t deal with lack of light very well. It’s also great at focusing on very close things; you can put something up to almost the lens, and it can get it in focus. It also shoots video in 720 HD, which will be great for shooting animation reference. My only complaint is that it seems to suck up battery life, especially when shooting videos. None of that may seem all that impressive to those of you with very high end cameras, but I’ve only had much cheaper cameras up until now.

I also bought The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition on blu-ray. They had a good deal for it at Best Buy, so I cancelled my Amazon.com order for it and picked it up. Testing it out, it looks fantastic. It looks a little too good, in fact; you can notice some special effects mistakes. For example, when Gollum gets the ring at the end of RotK and the camera zooms out above him as he’s happily looking up at the ring in his hand, his feet wobble unnaturally in front of the ground; you can really tell how he was inserted digitally into the scene. There are also plenty of scenes in which you can really get that blue-screen effect, in which the edges of the characters are strangely blurry and the lighting doesn’t quite match. Actually, that happens on the DVDs too, but I think it’s even more noticeable on blu-ray. But I don’t think anything is so bad that I won’t be able to enjoy it. Overall, it still looks fantastic. I can’t wait until I have time to watch them… I’d love to try watching all three right in a row, though I know that will take all day.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Animation Mentor – Semester 4!

After a 12-week leave of absence, Animation Mentor has started again for me!

Probably the worst thing about Animation Mentor is when they assign you a Q&A time that’s difficult or impossible for you to make, even though you requested to avoid that Q&A time. They gave me a Q&A time of 3 PM on Tuesdays, right in the middle of my job’s Tuesday hours. Animation Mentor will let you switch Q&A times with another student if you can find one, but if you can’t, tough luck for you. And I couldn’t; it seemed there were several students who wanted to swap out of 3 PM Tuesdays. So I thought I’d have to try to get my hours at work switched, which tends to be quite an annoying problem.

Anyway, my mentor was animator Jay Davis and I went to the first Q&A yesterday and it was awesome. Jay Davis was great, and the group was full of students from all over the world, UK, Hong Kong, Switzerland, etc., so it was a lot of fun. But just as the Q&A was finishing up, I got a message from a student willing to swap his Q&A time of Wednesdays at midnight, forcing me to make a quick decision. I was really looking forward to Jay Davis and the international class, but swapping to late Wednesdays completely elliminates having to find subs every Tuesday, so I made the swap. So now I’m looking forward to another first Q&A tonight at midnight with animator David Weatherly!

In other news, I went to a special event at the movie theater last night from Fathom Events. They were playing Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition. Nothing like seeing a big epic film like that on the big screen. Unfortunately about an hour into it, the power went out. We sat waiting in the theater for 25 or 30 minutes before the manager came around and said they had to close the theater. Ugh!! We got a refund, but since that was a one-night only event, I don’t know if that’s a chance I’ll ever get back… at least not until I’m rich enough to own my own big screen or have a rich friend who does. Leaving the theater, it was obvious that power was out for many of the surrounding shops, so lots of businesses probably lost some profits. Some traffic lights were also out and there were cops lining the roads. A storm had passed through, but by the time the theater was closed, the skies were clear and actually sported a rainbow. It was as if God was saying “Leave the fantasies of your mind’s eye and see my rainbow!” Though in my opinion, LOTR > rainbow.

So I sadly went home wondering why such suffering must exist (because being kicked out of a theater is one of the worst tragedies that can befall man), and finished watching the film on DVD. The blu-rays of the extended editions should be out now, so I have to wait for Amazon to ship mine (they take their time when you request free shipping), and then I’ll probably watch the whole trilogy yet again, if I can ever find the time.

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

A long blathery post

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS

twotowerslive Last Friday my mom and I went to Wolftrap to see a Lord of the Rings concert.  They have an orchestra play all the film music (choirs and soloists included), while projecting the film The Two Towers in HD on a huge screen.  We went to the same concert last year for first Lord of the Rings film, The Fellowship of the Ring, and I blogged about the experience here.

I don’t have much else besides praise for the concert; watching a film like that is just fantastic.  I will say a few things though:

The brass was quite loud.  In the soundtrack recordings, I’m sure they can mix the orchestra sound a bit so the strings have more of a voice, and perhaps the acoustics of Wolftrap’s Filene center have an effect, but when it came to the brassy action parts, the brass was quite loud, drowning out a lot of the orchestra, and sometimes the character’s voices.  The percussion could be quite loud at times too, especially instruments like the bass drum.  But this is not complaint; I love the sound of a booming bass drum.

The speakers popped every now and then a little before and after intermission, which was really annoying.

The choirs were amazing.  I really loved the elvish choir music.  The strings and choirs sounded especially dynamic and full and rich when hearing them live.

There were many moments in the film in which the story was so engaging that I forgot that the music was live.  This is both a testament to how well the music was played and just what a good story it is.

As I mentioned last year, it was a lot of fun to watch the film with a huge audience that also loved the film.  Hearing them laugh and cheer at moments was kind of exciting (though I myself kept silent the whole time).

Actually, watching the crowds made me kind of want to be a film composer; there’s just such a huge audience out there.  It’s easy to forget how big the world is.

Lastly, I kind of wish the Filene Center allowed popcorn and soda inside.  It would of course make a mess that they’d have to clean, but I do quite enjoy munching on popcorn while watching a film.

Next year I hope to see The Return of the King in a similar manner!

LAPTOP FAILURE

firelaptop A few days ago, all the applications on my laptop, from Firefox to Microsoft Office programs, kept crashing.  Then I’d often get the bluescreen of death saying something about a physical memory dump and then restarting the computer.  I was sure it was a RAM issue, and thought one of my sticks of RAM was bad and needed to be replaced.  So I took out one of the laptop’s RAM modules and, voila, it worked!  Though I was out 2 GB of RAM.  I wanted to go buy some more RAM just for the quick fix of it, but my father insisted that I call Dell support.  So I did (well, actually, he did, and then handed me the phone) and, by switching the working RAM into the other slot as support told me to, I discovered the problem wasn’t with the RAM, but with the motherboard; it couldn’t communicate with that RAM port for some reason.

So sometime this week or next week or whenever, a Dell guy should come to my house and replace the motherboard, which will hopefully go smoothly.  In the meantime, I’ll only have 2 GB of RAM, but everything should at least run smoothly without crashing.  My music composing might be impaired a bit, since I often do use up a lot of RAM loading up virtual instruments, but 2 GB should still be manageable.

The laptop (an Alienware M17x) gets really hot when playing games.  Like, burning hot.  Like, you could fry an egg on it.  Okay, maybe not that hot, but, still, it gets really hot.  Which is fine with me because it plays games really really well; highest resolution (1920 x 1200) on highest settings and the frame rates stay high.  It’s just awesome.  But I’m wondering if it’s all the heat it produces that damaged the motherboard?  Eh… who knows…

READING

thelongtail Last week, I finished reading Long Tail, The, Revised and Updated Edition: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.  It was written in 2006, and in the computer world, that makes it outdated already.  (Though there is now an updated and revised edition that I haven’t read, but I’m linking to it anyway.)  YouTube wasn’t as big when the book was written, and it mentions Google Froogle every now and then.  But, overall, the ideas in the book are very good.

That said, I’m not sure reading an entire book on the subject was worth it.  It’s a short book, only around 230 pages, but it certainly seemed repetitive.  The idea of the “Long Tail” isn’t too hard to understand: there’s a definite market for niche products, so if you can offer a lot of choices to buyers (without, obviously, spending too much money yourself), you can definitely make a profit.  Great subject for a magazine article (which is what I believe it started as), but for a book it seems just a bit stretched.  Makes for easy reading at least.

PROJECTS

oreally3 I also recently started some projects with a friend.  The first idea was to create cartoony shorts, similar to PowerPoint presentations we used to give in high school.  You can see our first animation here on YouTube.

Some problems with this project are: the animation is very rough and the recent-event subject is time-sensitive.  I think such shorts could find an audience if we could keep them up, but with just two people creating them, neither of which are quick or experienced animators, it would probably be infeasible, unless we had a lot more time to dedicate to it each week.

What I’d like to do eventually is use this similar method of animation (creating animation frames in PowerPoint, since I know how to draw best in it) to create something longer, and non-political.  Two years or so ago, my sister and I planned out a kid-friendly comedy-fantasy story with the hope of one day turning into a series of cartoons.  At the time, I had just bought Flash and had high hopes of gaining awesome animation skills with it.  Using PowerPoint didn’t cross my mind, because I am stupid.  But now that I am reminded, maybe it will be something to try in the future.  I especially like the idea of writing music to it, and being able to take a long time polishing an animation.

Anyway, the other project we started was the writing of a novel.  But I can not yet say anything about it due to a non-disclosure agreement.

SCHOOL WORK

I don’t go to school anymore, so I don’t have any.

By S P Hannifin, ago