Films you may have missed during the Covid19 lockdown

Host (2020)

Following on from my previous post about films to watch during the Covid19 lockdown. Now the cinemas are starting to open, I thought I’d write another set of films and TV I have watched between June – August.

The list of films I usually post are ones you may not have seen or skipped over.

Films

Archive

Target Number One (2020)

Based around a true story, its a slow but insane story of drug addict Daniel Leger. Being built up as a major international drugs smuggler. Its well worth a watch

Irresistible (2020)

Quite funny film written by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show fame. Really points the finger at the system of money which drives the elections and politics in America. No one gets away clean in this one

Swallow (2020)

There are a short list of films I will only watch once a year as they are just uncomfortable. I’m going to add Swallow to this list. Its a difficult subject reasonably told but a bit slow in parts.

Archive (2020)

Intriguing AI type film, its no Ex-Machina but it will surprise you in the end. Solid Sci-fi which slowly builds and hits you out of nowhere. I don’t want to say anything more.

The Rental (2020)

Every Airbnb nightmare ripped large with hidden cameras and a over bearing host. Nice little twists and the tension is about right for this thriller rather than horror.

One Night in Bangkok (2020)

This reminds me very much of Hummingbird and Vengeance. Its a bit slow in places but there are some soft twists and the character development does help you feel for them.

Host (2020)

Not a fan of horror, only because I find the jump silly and the gross parts just stupid. Host surprises as its of a moment, while we are in the pandemic using zoom. Host comes along and leans right into it. Well worth watching even if your not into horror.

Ava (2020)

I mentioned in the last review a film called The Rhythm Section and its similarity to films like Anna, La Femme Nikita, etc. Its a good film and likely better than the Rhythm Section thanks to Jessica Chastain’s performance.

TV

Tell me who I am

Tell Me Who I Am (2019)

Yeah I know it was available in 2019 but I hasn’t come across it till someone mentioned it to me recently. What a story and then it gets very dark very quickly. It reminds me of the film called Rewind which I recommended a little while ago. Both are worth your time and patience around this incredibly difficult subject

On the Record (2020)

I heard bit of the story during the peak of the movement but it got drowned out by other women’s experiences. Its clear it didn’t get the absolute attention it deserved and for f-sake, Russell Simmons and others are pretty untouched. For the record, Russell has stepped down from his positions in Def Jam Recordings and other companies as a result of these allegations. He moved to Bali where there is no extradition treaty to the U.S.

Alex Rider (2020)

I wasn’t sure about this one. It kinda fell under the radar for what ever reason, but it surprised me. Its well thought-out and well told. Its a got a lot of production behind it and it really shows. Expect a series 2 maybe?

Upload (2020)

I wrote about Upload early in the pandemic, comparing it to the now ended Good Place. There’s a lot of comparisons but its going to take a season or two to get up that level. Get the first season and enjoy potentially the start of something special?

Manctopia: Manchester’s housing boom

Manctopia

When I first heard there was going to be a TV documentary about Manchester’s building boom, I was very sceptical it was going to do the justice to the sheer amount of building going on in Manchester and its effect on the people.

Manctopia: Meet the people living and working in the eye of Manchester’s remarkable housing boom.

After watching the first episode I thought it did do a good job. Theres reasonable number of view points from some people living on the streets to a person looking for a multi-million pound 3 bedroom penthouse with great views of the city.

Its of course strange to see where I live in the shots and seeing the backstory of the buildings opposite me in Piccadilly East. Wondering if Ancoats, Angel fields, Ponoma and Salford Quays will make it into future episodes.

Its available on BBC iplayer and BBC two every Tuesday at 9pm

Re-watching the Watchmen TV series

Spoiler alert!!!

If you have not seen the Watchmen the TV series, Do not watch the explainer above. Instead watch this one,

I can’t tell you how amazing the TV series is and its excellent follow up to the excellent film.

I’m watching it again because although its amazing, and I needed to watch it all again to understand it all. However I also wanted to watch it during the black lives matter protests for its extremely strong race in America storyline and references. This is how I found out about Tulsa in 1921.

The secret episode of Seinfeld in the age of Covid-19

I mentioned how weird it is seeing films with lots of touching and no social distancing.

Someone decided to pull together a bunch of Seinfeld into a Covid-19 special.

How would Seinfeld look like in a world taken over by the coronavirus? Well, Jerry would probably disinfect everything. Kramer would try to find his own cure. George would think he’s dying all the time. Elaine would try to take everyone in her path. Lucky for us, there’s a secret episode that was never finished to find out!

I may reconsider getting a Google home mini now

Google local apk diagram

When I got my Pixel 2 it came with a Google home mini. I decided I would give it a shot so other people can control the Hue lights in my flat.

However I was deeply disappointed to find I could only make it work if I open up two holes in my firewall, allowing Google Home mini to talk to Google then Google talking to Philips who then talk through my other hole in my firewall to my Hue lights!

Even saying the above is a clear sign of how stupid the whole thing is…

So annoyed I sold it straight away. But it looks like I wasn’t the only one who fed back to Google how stupid this all was and early last year they included some code in their SDK to include local access.

Now it looks like its ready and I noticed Philips Hue and TPlink are one of the first lot of services to support this.

If this works as it says I may buy a Google home mini or I noticed the Google home hub is going for half price right now. Of course I’ll make sure the firewall stay closed and will be watching how people find the local access. What a field day people will have if Google screw this one up…!

Hardware-Accelerated Plex media server on Ubuntu?

Plex logoI have been using Plex media server on my AMD six core machine for a while and its good but cooling is a issue. About 9 months ago I installed a Nvidia graphics card hoping to take advantage of the new hardware acceleration option. However I realised its a non-starter as it required a Intel chipset not AMD.

Then over the last few months I got my hands on a secondhand HP Z800 workstation with 4x quad core 2.8 ghz processors (yes 16 cores in total). It came with 12 gig of memory which I was planning to upgrade if things work out. It came with a PCI-Express Nvida Geforce graphics card, so I was thinking everything is set. just install Ubuntu with Plex media server, install the proprietary Nvidia display drivers and sit back and enjoy?

I wish…

Here is Plex transcoding inception from 1080p with DTS (Blu-ray sourced) to something suitable for my Pixel 4 (I had to turn off play original, to force it to do the transcoding)transcoding with htop

You can see it much clearer in the htop terminal. Look at those cores running transcoding tasks.

Plex with transcoding

Here is Plex not transcoding inception from 1080p with DTS (Blu-ray sourced) to my Pixel 4

not transcoding with Htop

Quite different from the above, the machines is hardly doing anything over its 16 cores. But the bandwidth is a problem outside a local network environment

Plex not transcoding

If anyone has successfully got hardware-Accelerated Streaming working on a Ubuntu server, let me know!

Plex’s future, without its server?

halt and catch fire

Plex recently announced they were making major changes and that we should be excited about Desktop AF. What wasn’t said was the media server is being killed?

Years back, the most common Plex implementation was to attach a home theater PC (HTPC) to a TV to stream media. With the proliferation of cheap streaming devices like the Chromecast, Apple TV, and Fire TV, almost no one bothers with HTPCs anymore. Thus, Plex is retiring the TV interface with the launch of its new desktop app. This will, no doubt, upset some Plex fans nonetheless.

dates

Upset? Absolutely and its now in direct competition with Kodi too.

I’m now in the market for a alternative to Plex. Originally I was looking at Emby a long while ago but frankly I don’t want to switch to another freemium product.

Jellyfin and Triton look good but its early days.

Jellyfin is a personal media server. The Jellyfin project was started as a result of Emby’s decision to take their code closed-source, as well as various philosophical differences with the core developers. Jellyfin seeks to be the free software alternative to Emby and Plex to provide media management and streaming from a dedicated server to end-user devices.

TRITON is a media pipeline that aims to go one step further than services like Jellyfin and Plex provide. Media is fetched from a magnitude of supported protocols (HTTP, S3-compatible, Usenet, etc), converted into multiple different quality levels, and then uploaded to a S3-compatible storage provider. This enables cheap storage and ensures that buffering is never a problem.

Lots more research is needed, including a look at what others are doing with the Plex announcement. Although I did find Ampache and Airsonic which could be useful for my mixcloud issues. Imagine if they were federated too?

The best technology can be used for good and for bad

Plex

I was very much reminded of this when reading about a user abusing Plex’s share.

Earlier this week the man in question informed fellow Plex users on Tweakers that he was approached by local anti-piracy group BREIN, which had become aware that he was running a Plex share with 5,700 movies and 10,000 TV-shows.

 

Google Stadia for Interactive digital narratives?

Yesterday Google announced Stadia, their cloud gaming project. The interesting parts of the announcement are…

  1. Play now on youtube
    I love the transition from watching to playing, 5 seconds and I’m sure with time it will drop down to even less.
  2. Play on any device and completely cross platform
    Really taking complete advantage of streaming and google’s massive cloud infrastructure.
  3. Record play state to the youtube
    Completing the circle, by sharing your state (not video) back to youtube, maybe even allowing others to play again with… This makes total sense because youtube is where they can start to show adverts too; although because its all generated it would be easy to advertise in the game its self.
  4. Share play state
    As mentioned above, you are not playing a video, but the game again complete with its world state, player position and player inventory.

Google Stadia on every platform

I think its quite a compelling idea and like everyone else, are interested in how much, how easy its to build for and will google get bored and kill it? I’m less interested in the exclusive games, game pad, etc but acknowledge  it will live or die by the games.

I do think theres some incredible possibilities for other types of media especially interactive digital narratives. It certainly could blow netflix’s interactive platform out the water. Said quite a few times, I find netflix’s interactive platform is horrible when you think, theres better more engaging experiences on the console attached to the same TV or even on the mobile you are using to drive it. With Stadia, its all the same thing.

Welcome to my home cinema

Inception on the big screen
If there’s a film to try out the new projector its got to be Inception

I finally put down some money and got the Optoma HD143x, after lots of research and deciding that I will make it work somehow or send it back.

Optoma hd143x

After about a hour and half fiddling with controls, moving the unit (I tried different heights and even the coffee table) and adjusting it a lot. At one point I tried putting the telephoto lens in front of the projector lens but the lens on the projector is so large I ended up with a quarter of the picture missing.

But finally I got a widescreen 16:9 picture at 1080p/60 resolution positioned on my screen/blind. Its clear that ideally the screen isn’t wide enough

Stretched inception picture

Originally I had to set it to 4:3 stretching the picture vertically. I thought it was acceptable but then started thinking theres got to be way to fit a 16:9 picture on the screen.

Inception on the large screen
Note the [2] at the top left is slightly cut off

Then finally I found a image shift and crop feature which allowed me to position the picture at its natural ratio of 16:9. Its not perfect but it works and means I’ll keep the projector.

So next thing to do is get a long HDMI cable and replace the VGA cable for the old projector with it in the room trunking. I also need a better more solid backstop to rest the projector on. Currently its resting on my headphone case and thats not ideal. The projector only really has one support at the front and gets unbalanced when the back is up off the ground.

Inception on the large screen

The research paid off and and now I’m looking forward to hosting some nice film nights complete with 7.1 surround sound and fresh popcorn. What a great Christmas present!

This is the TV, which fits my flat

In my last post about buying a projector, I thought long and hard about getting a bigger TV as mine is 40inches and quite old as the first generation Smart TV. I use it mainly as a monitor really with Kodi and a Chromecast driving most of my media viewing. I already unplugged it from my network and don’t use any of the smart apps.

But I love my view across Manchester, and can’t really think about putting a big TV in front of it. The projector screen is a nice compromise.

Then today from CES, came the perfect TV for me, however I have no plans to buy it, what ever price tag it has on it. Also I don’t fancy being the early adopter on this one, I’ll wait for the 3rd generation and massive price drop.

Which projector fits in my flat?

My home cinema setup

I love home cinema and the idea of a projector is one of those things I always wanted but couldn’t afford. A while ago I (well my friends wife did and I helped) put up a white Tupplur blind from IKEA. Then I bought a really cheap XGA projector.

It kind of works but I have to put the projector on the coffee table and quite high. As its XGA (1024×768) and not even WXGA (1280×768), the picture is cut off when playing a film and of course its analog inputs only which is a real pain. So finally its time to get a new projector.

This should be easy but I realise I might be asking for the impossible?

  • Full HD 1080p projector
  • HDMI inputs
  • Less than £500
  • The ability to beam 4 meters and fill but not over shoot a screen of about 2.55m diagonal (2.1m width x 1.45m height)

The last part is the biggest issue, the current projector over shoots the screen massively and the only way I can make it fit is with a telephoto lens I bought recently.

The macrolen attached to my old projector
Telephoto lens attached to my current projector

So I’ve been looking up throw distances, and it seems to be roughly the meters I want the projector away (4 meters) divided by the second number in the projectors ratio (usually something like 1:62). The number resulting is the width of the image.
For example the perfect number is 4 meters divided by a nice projector throw ratio like 1:1.9 gets you 2.1 meters at 4 meters distance.

Theres lots of projector calculators online, I’ve been using this one. They are great but when looking up projector prices in the UK, its always difficult to get the throw ratio. This is important because even if projector central can filter by throw and other things, the prices are all over the place.

The telephoto lens in effect

After much looking, comparing and searching (I’m surprised theres no way to compare this type of data easily actually, the best site I found for this is Projector Central which allows you to search based on key features). I decided to order the Optoma HD143X HDMI 3000.  I’ve decided to give it a try and be prepared to use a telephoto lens again to get the picture down to a reasonable throw size. Searching and comparing was eating up my time, when I should have been doing other things. So I’m glad that all done now and just happened to nab one as the price went up again. One of the online retailers had not changed their price quick enough, luckily for me.

Worst comes to worst, I could always get a bigger blind, setup a white sheet or just send it back and go looking again.

Fingers crossed it will fit perfectly, otherwise another trip to IKEA is on the cards.

New Ghost in the Shell anime

Ghost in the shell fan art

Noticed in the Verge

As spotted by io9, Netflix announced that a new Ghost in the Shell anime is coming — Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 which will be directed by Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed), and Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex). Netflix doesn’t reveal any additional details, other than to say that it will be released sometime in 2020.

Travels with Pacemaker… live from Skopje

Travels with Pacemaker Skopje
Taken by Adriangradinar

Its rare when I get the opportunity to Dj on a big stage in front of a crowd live but I certainly do enjoy it. This time it was live from British Council’s PlayUK 2018 in Skopje Macedonia. Someone couldn’t make it and I said well if you need a DJ I’m totally up for it.

Very enjoyable, shame I didn’t have longer and I started mixing during the sound test meaning I didn’t hit record. I did consider hitting stop and then hitting record but people were dancing and well the mix was pretty simple.

Podcasts in Plex? But which Plex?

Verge podcast on PlexPodcasts on Plex, at long last?

I was excited by the news of podcasts on plex

So excited I decided to switch to the beta version to give it a try.

Now I know its beta but after closer inspection of the blog post, I noticed everything was focused on the player application. As most of my Plex use is as a server, I was expecting to see podcasts as a plex scanner/agent option or even better a library type.

Currently it seems like you can create a podcast library on the Plex player/app but that doesn’t sync back to anywhere. I expected that under my user account I would see the new podcast library on my Plex media server too. Trying to create a new podcast library also goes no where when using the web interface to the media server.

My hope is this is just a beta issue and it will be rolled out to the media server too. Because right now the point of Plex is the sync capability around one app. This does make me wonder about Plex’s previous move which upset a lot of people.

Till this is clear, I’ll be sticking with my elaborate podcast sync system.