THE UNFOLDING OF A NEW DIMENSION OF MOBILE DISPLAY TECHNOLOGY WITH SAMSUNG’S LATEST

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Justin Denizen, the SVP of Mobile Product Marketing at Samsung at SDC2018 in San Francisco a year ago. Photo by Marcus Siu.

Article and photos by Marcus Siu

After months of teasing about their foldable phone in conjunction with last year’s MCW (Mobile Congress World) show in March, Samsung unveiled their new revolutionary “Infinity Flex” at their keynote address in San Francisco the following November at the Samsung Developer’s Conference – SDC2018.

Continuously accomplishing evolutionary improvements year after year and creating new industry standards with each smartphone release, Samsung have simply outdid themselves by re-imagining the design of the smartphone of tomorrow, thinking way outside the box of that could only have been imagined in science fiction movies.

“We’ve been living in a world where the size of your screen can only be as large as the device itself,” remarked Justin Denizen, Samsung’s SVP of Mobile Product Marketing at the Opening Keynote at SDC2018 in San Francisco. 

“The Infinity Flex Display is the foundation for the smartphone of tomorrow…Infinity Flex represents the biggest leap forward in mobile display technology in the last decade…together with one UI, it lays the foundation for a new platform.” 

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Sally Hyesoon Jeong, VP, Head of Framework R&D Group, Mobile Communications addresses the crowd at SDC2019 in San Jose, California. Photo by Marcus Siu.

After announcing that the “Infinity Flex” would be in production in April 2019, there were some initial production hiccups after the company had sent devices to various outlets for review.  Many reviewers were reporting that their phones were breaking down in just a few days, but one of the main reasons was that some reviewers peeled off the screen protector thinking it was supposed to be removed, when it actually was one of the innovative layered components that protected the device that should not have been removed.

Even with a warning on the instructions not to peel the layer off, many reviewers did not read the literature in the box.  However, since reviewers are a microcosm of consumers, Samsung needed to redesign and extended the layer so it would make it a permanent part of the phone.

In regards to the other issues,  Samsung made additional quality improvements and refined the design further nearly six months later, addressing those initial issues that have disappeared.

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Developers get a first hand look at the new Samsung Galaxy Fold at the SDC2019 booth in San Jose, California. Photo by Marcus Siu.

Pioneering innovation in mobile display technology has been a main force why Samsung has been the favorite among Android smartphone users over the years as they continue to make things even better than you would think would be impossible to improve on for the consumer. Ten years ago, Samsung introduced Super AMOLED smartphones in 2010 and continued to improve the technology today to Quad HD Super AMOLED, used in the bezel-less Galaxy Edge.  Now that they are in the Infinity Flex age, they continue advancing and have created a new form factor of foldable smartphones. 

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BEFORE PHOTO: The Samsung Galaxy Flex is a smartphone. Photo by Marcus Siu.

The Infinity Flex Display, and the phone itself has a tablet-sized screen that can be folded up to fit into a pocket.  When folded, the view-able screen measures 4.6 inches. When unfolded, the device has a 7.3-inch display, about the size of a tablet screen. 

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AFTER PHOTO: The Samsung Galaxy Flex is a tablet. Photo by Marcus Siu.

It’s difficult to fathom how this could be entirely possible given the physical and its dimensional characteristics.  How is this possible to bend and fold a smart-phone as though it was a leather wallet that you can put in your back pocket?

Samsung basically re-imagined the way smartphones are made .  They substituted the protective cover glass and replacing it with a composite polymer that is flexible and tough yet durable.  They also came up with a unique adhesive that improves the elasticity of the component layers (cover window (PI), shock-absorbent film, ultra thin polarizer, flexible layer and backplane).  Finally, they invented a new polarizer, reducing the thickness by 45%.  All these factors would reduce the thickness of the phone in order for it to be folded and unfolded repeatedly hundreds of thousands of times, creating a new form factor, opening a new dimension with the Infinity Display technology.

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New folding designs are in the works at Samsung. Phones do not need to be folded vertically, but can be folded horizontally. Photo by Marcus Siu.

As a side note, the Opening Keynote at SDC2019 also teased a new unnamed concept design of that of a traditional flip phone, much like those styles of Nokia and Motorola used in the early days of cell phones.  The “clam-shell” foldable phone allows the device to fold width wise instead of lengthwise.

With the creation of the Samsung Fold phone, there will be endless possibilities to this newly created form factor which will continuously flourish and develop into a new era. 

To Infinity and beyond!

 

 

 

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THX CERTIFIED EVOO LAPTOPS: GAMES & MOVIES HAVE NEVER LOOKED OR SOUNDED BETTER

THX and EVOO Announce New Lineups of Ultra Slim, Convertible 2-in-1s, and Gaming Laptops
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THX showed up at the latest Pepcom show in San Francisco announcing their THX certified Intel-powered EVOO devices featuring their THX® Spatial Audio technology and Tuned by THX™ displays enhancing the user experience of movies, music, streaming video and games. Photo by Marcus Siu.

Article and photos by Marcus Siu

After purchasing a brand new TV or laptop, how many consumers out there do you think actually go through the trouble to calibrate and fine-tune the colors of their display to get the finest picture possible?  Probably not many.

The majority of users don’t even think about adjusting the display settings on their monitors or laptops, and just leave the factory default settings alone.   It never crosses their minds that they actually need to adjust and balance the settings if they want a better picture with better contrast or crisper and brighter colors.  The fact is, most of the companies simply do not calibrate their displays they package.

THX, known for the certification of movie auditoriums, as well as home theaters, car audio systems, and gaming consoles has just recently branched out to include personal mobile devices.  The latest lineup of THX certified EVOO devices were on display at the Pepcom show in San Francisco, which come pre-calibrated and tuned by THX engineers, who spend countless hours, guaranteeing the consumer get the best in sound and picture possible right out of the box. 

This is a big win for the consumer.

However, the really impressive news is that the EVOO gaming laptops will feature multi-dimensional sound utilizing “spatial audio”, where the sound not only surrounds you not only from the front, rear and sides, but also above and below you…basically a 360 degree field.  You can experience this through the built-in speakers from the laptop or just using headphones.  If you are a gamer or movie watcher, you cannot get better than this for a total immersive experience from any other mobile device.  If you prefer, you can always set it down to “stereo”.

The THX slogan of “the audience is listening” now can probably come out with a more updated slogan” “the audience is immersing”…

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TV display shows before and after THX calibration as well as several laptops at the THX booth at the Pepcom show.   Photo by Marcus Siu

Here is their original press release that contains more detailed information.

San Francisco, Oct. 17, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — THX Ltd., renowned for the certification of world-class cinemas and consumer electronics, today announced new lineups of powerful, attractive, cost effective EVOO devices designed for those with mobile lifestyles, and for gamers. The new EVOO Gaming laptops, expected to be available in November on Walmart.com, will feature THX Spatial Audio technology for immersive audio that enhances audio localization from headphones and from the device’s built-in speakers, as well as displays that have been Tuned by THX to provide vibrant colors and crisp visual contrast, vastly improving both the audio and video playback. In addition, five new EVOO lifestyle devices for people with mobile lifestyles, including ultra slim laptops and 2-in-1 convertible laptop-tablets, feature Tuned by THX displays that enhance the TV, movie viewing and streaming experience, and are available now on Walmart.com.

“We are pleased to help bring to market these exceptional new EVOO devices. With the EVOO Gaming laptops, gamers experience spherical multidimensional audio, putting them at the center of the action in video games, movies, streaming video, and music,” said Jason Fiber, senior vice president and general manager, mobile products, THX Ltd. ”Adding to this, our THX engineers worked diligently to calibrate the displays so the devices will offer a quality viewing experience with brighter, clearer colors and vibrant, focused contrast.”

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EVOO Gaming Laptop (EG-LP6w 17.3”) with THX® Spatial Audio and Tuned by THX™

EVOO Gaming Laptops – THX Spatial Audio and Tuned by THX: EVOO, a private-label electronics brand sold on Walmart.com, today announced three new Intel-powered EVOO Gaming laptops optimized for dedicated and new gamers. The EVOO gamer will have the option of enjoying THX stereo as well as THX Spatial Audio to experience three-dimensional audio immersion. This means the player may become fully immersed in an authentic game experience that transports them into the computer game environment with true-to-life acoustics that allows them to accurately locate enemies, avoid dangers, and detect threats with the precision and pin-point accuracy of advanced audio positioning. THX Spatial Audio may also help reduce ear and brain fatigue by moving sounds perceptibly farther away from the player in order to encourage mental sharpness enabling longer playtime. Recognizing that great content needs exceptional graphics, the EVOO Gaming laptops also feature displays Tuned by THX, resulting in a compelling and accurate viewing experience. THX engineers spend countless hours testing, tuning and adjusting a myriad of display parameters in order to provide exceptional, crisp display color and images for the best possible video experience from the time it is taken out of the box.

These three performance-series EVOO Gaming laptops, expected to be available in early November, include:

  • a 17.3-inch full HD screen with an Intel i7 9th gen processor, 16GB/1TB and Nvidia RTX 2060 ($1599 MSRP),
  • a 15.6-inch full HD screen Intel i7 9th gen processor, 16GB/512GB, and Nvidia GTX 1660ti ($1299 MSRP), and
  • a 15.6-inch full HD screen with an Intel i7 9th gen processor, 16GB/256GB, and Nvidia GTX 1650 ($1199 MSRP).
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EVOO Lifestyle Laptop (TEV-C-116-1 – 11.6”), Tuned by THX™

 

EVOO Lifestyle – Tuned by THX: Five new EVOO Lifestyle devices announced today include displays that have been Tuned by THX for a better viewing experience, perfect for watching TV shows, movies, and video streaming.  Specifically, the EVOO Tuned by THX devices come with a custom viewing mode that mimics displays used by Hollywood and TV professionals.

These EVOO laptops are designed for the busy person on the go–great for home, travel, and work. They are available in multiple screen sizes, form factors, colors, and each is powered by an Intel processor.  Prices range from $199.99 to $399.99, available now on Walmart.com, and include:

  • an 11.6-inch Ultra Slim laptop (Windows 10s 4GB/32GB),
  • a 14.1-inch Ultra Slim Elite Series laptop (Windows 10s 4GB/32GB),
  • two 11.6-inch 2-in-1 convertible touchscreen laptops, a standard and the Elite Series with Microsoft Office 365 and a touch screen (Windows 10s 4GB/32GB), and
  • an 11.6-inch 2-in-1 convertible touchscreen tablet (Windows 10s 4GB/32GB).

“We are thrilled to have THX and Intel, two bold, innovative, respected brands, as EVOO partners. Combined, we will enhance both the entertainment experience and computing performance of these new EVOO ultra-sleek slim lifestyle laptops and tablets, and new gaming laptops,” said Rodney Rad, from the EVOO product team. “EVOO is pleased to expand our offering of unparalleled quality at attainable price points across our product mix with these new consumer electronics devices.”

For further information about Tuned by THX and THX Spatial Audio integrated into EVOO products please visit www.thx.com/evoo. The EVOO Lifestyle devices are available now, and the EVOO Gaming laptops are expected to be available as soon as early November. To purchase EVOO products, please visit https://www.walmart.com/evoo.

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MINECRAFT HAS NEVER LOOKED BETTER ON PC WITH AN RTX EXCLUSIVE

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When Mojang, the maker of the world’s best selling game, Minecraft, which has sold 176 million units globally, announced they were going to release the Super Duper Graphics Pack during E3 2017, fans were ecstatic and highly anticipated playing the popular game with enhanced visuals with a new look for the nearly ten year iconic game.

Originally planned for release in fall 2017 as an optional add-on, would have added “dynamic shadows, lighting that streams through fog, movement in leaves and grass, new textures for mobs and villagers, directional lighting, [and] edge highlighting.”

Unfortunately, the company had to cancel their project because the pack proved too technically demanding to implement as planned because it wasn’t performing well across different platforms.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm for Super Duper from inside and outside the studio – but unfortunately, we aren’t happy with how the pack performed across devices. For this reason, we’re stopping development on the pack, and looking into other ways for you to experience Minecraft with a new look.

Well, luckily for Minecraft fans, that time has come as their is another option to obtain their game with enhanced visuals that they were planning on.  Even better visuals than they ever imagined, and Mojang has great imagination.

Here are two demonstration videos.

Through Windows 10 PC’s and laptops, using Nvidia GEForce RTX GPU’s, they can obtain a free update that will utilize real-time ray tracing from it’s graphics hardware.

Minecraft with RTX will refit the entire game with path tracing, a form of ray tracing featuring incredible levels of detail, affecting almost every pixel of every scene. You’ll see lifelike lighting, reflections and shadows, plus so much more, exemplifying the power of ray tracing and demonstrating why game developers like Mojang and Microsoft are working together with NVIDIA to enhance upcoming blockbusters with ray tracing.

This will dramatically change it into a new immersive experience rendering the realism of it’s environment for the viewer, even with it’s original Minecraft’s pixelated and blocky design that makes it so charming to everyone of all ages.  Gamers of Minecraft will never want to go back once they have experienced live ray-tracing with Minecraft.

Below are a few examples in the Minecraft environment using an interactive RTX-off RTX-on demo.

https://images.nvidia.com/geforce-com/international/comparisons/minecraft-ray-tracing/minecraft-with-rtx-interactive-comparison-001-on-vs-off.html

https://images.nvidia.com/geforce-com/international/comparisons/minecraft-ray-tracing/minecraft-with-rtx-interactive-comparison-002-on-vs-off.html

https://images.nvidia.com/geforce-com/international/comparisons/minecraft-ray-tracing/minecraft-with-rtx-interactive-comparison-003-on-vs-off.html

https://images.nvidia.com/geforce-com/international/comparisons/minecraft-ray-tracing-with-hd-textures/minecraft-with-rtx-and-hd-textures-interactive-comparison-001-on-vs-off.html

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What’s more exciting is that this is just the start of the RTX gaming revolution.  This will be the new industry standard for new video games.   Here is a video of 10 upcoming games with ray tracing:

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RIVETING FEMALE POV DOCUMENTARY IN WAR TORN SYRIA – “FOR SAMA”

Sama pictured in September 2016, in the bombarded east of the city with a placard in response to US presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s infamous gaffe “What’s Aleppo”                                          Courtesy of PBS Distribution

FOR SAMA is both an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war.
A love letter from a young mother to her daughter, the film tells the story of Waad al-Kateab’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her.

Her camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as Waad wrestles with an impossible choice – whether or not to flee the city to protect her daughter’s life, when leaving means abandoning the struggle for freedom for which she has already sacrificed so much.

The film is the first feature documentary by Emmy award-winning filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts.

Director, cinematographer, and activist survivor of “For Sama”, Waad al-Kateab.                        Courtesy of PBS Distribution.

Article by Marcus Siu

The documentary,”For Sama”, seems to have all the right elements for a classic Hollywood love story.  A young and optimistic college co-ed shows up at a peaceful anti-government demonstration protesting for human rights at the local University.  There she meets a young doctor among a group of friends, who shares the same passion for life as she does.  They fall in love, get married in a joyous wedding ceremony, move into their very first home and immediately become proud parents to an adorable beautiful baby girl named “Sama”.

Sounds perfect, right?  Not quite.

We need to rewind back to 2012 when Waad al-Kateab was a young co-ed college student majoring in Economics at the University of Aleppo, where she joined thousands of anti-government protesters at a peaceful demonstration.  As the demonstration evidently became more violent, with the increasing tension between the demonstrators and the authoritarian Syrian government led by President Bashar-al Assad, she began to document footage on her mobile phone.  From that day on, she started to record on a regular basis.

Hamza, Sama and the staff of al-Quds hospital, which Hamza set up in 2012 in east Aleppo.     Courtesy PBS Distribution.

Among with her activist friends, she meets her soon-to-be husband, Hazma, who works as a doctor at the Al-Quds hospital that he set up in Aleppo.  She moves in with him there along with the rest of the medics and became part of his “family”.  This enabled her to gain access to film at to the hospital that would normally would be off limits for any other outsider.

While her camera documented much death and destruction, there were numerous scenes of heroism at the hospital, as well.  Many lives were saved, including a pregnant woman with her unborn baby.  The unconscious woman is brought into the hospital where the medics quickly do a cesarean to attempt to save her baby.  When the baby is removed, he is also unconscious and not breathing, but after what seemed like endless perseverance in trying to resuscitate him, he is revived.  This scene also reflects al-Kateab’s unwillingness to give up on hope.  Any other filmmaker would have stopped the camera in a matter of seconds assuming the baby was dead, but instead al-Kateab’s camera continued to roll.

In addition to having direct access to the hospital, al-Kateab was able to document what it was like for children to be growing up and living in times of war.  She follows the group of schoolchildren who are being transported and directed by female teachers into small classrooms located in the basement of buildings that provide a dual purpose for a conducive learning environment, as well as a protective bomb shelter.  Many of the children shared their hatred for the Syrian government regime and leader.

When the children return home to their rubble piled neighborhood, they discover the remains of a school bus left standing with its smoked blown exterior shell and its steel interior.  In it we see a boy spinning its still intact driving wheel pretending to be the bus driver as the other boys play in the back as though they were at a local neighborhood playground.  A little girl watches them and speculates the bus was blown up by cherry bombs.  In between the Russian air strikes, the children are given cans of different colored paint from the adults who encourage them to paint the exterior of the bus just for fun, though other children may have preferred jumping in the man made pond in between all the rubble.

In a heartbreaking scene, a little boy is standing overhead a ledge on the third story of his home overlooking the devastation all around him.  He is deep in thought but is holding back his tears as much as he can.  Al-Kateab asks why he is sad and he answers that he is a “little” disappointed that his friends his own age have fled from the city but he still prays and forgives them for abandoning him.  Some of his friends and their family have been killed by bomb attacks and knows it can happen this can happen to him at anytime, as well, but his family has chosen to stay put since they have no other place to go.

Waad al-Kateab filming the ruins of a building destroyed by bombing in besieged east Aleppo, October 2016.                                                                                                                          Courtesy of PBS Distribution.

Not everything Waad al-Kateab captures is about loss and devastation from the war, but joy and happiness from of her own personal life and milestones.  There are intimate scenes sharing her declaration of love to Hazma; sharing jokes and good times with her friends; celebrating her wedding ceremony; and gleaming with joy in front of the mirror pregnant with Sama.  Perhaps the most poignant scene in the movie is when we see a close up Sama peacefully sleeping, with her mother softly and lovingly repeating her name until Sama responds by cracking a little smile without opening her eyes.

War is no place for anyone, but certainly not for children whose childhoods were taken away from them with no say in the matter.  Sama was born in January of 2016 during the last and most violent year for the battle of Aleppo.  That was the same year that the government regime and its allies resorted to every imaginable atrocity to crush the rebels including bombing the last remaining hospital.  The rebels are besieged and witness attacks by chlorine gas, cluster and barrel bombs, and massacres of women and children.

Waad, Hamza and Sama look at graffiti they painted on a bombed-out building, protesting against the forced exile of the civilian population of east Aleppo by forces of the Syrian regime and their Russian and Iranian allies, December 2016. Courtesy of PBS Distribution.

Both Waad and Hazma al-Kateab lost friends and narrowly escape death themselves at the hand of snipers, airstrikes and barrel bombs, scenes all captured on camera.  During that time, Waad continued to struggle with the personal choice of abandoning Aleppo to protect Sama or her freedom in which she strongly believes in.  “For Sama” is not just a love letter to her daughter, but also a document that will help comprehend the world that she grew up in; where children just like her are immune to the wartime sounds and destruction around them and accepts it as part of life.

Recipients of the “Golden Eye” at the Cannes Film Festival for “For Sama”, al-Kateab, along with her collaborating director, Edward Watts, have created a deeply riveting, intimate and personal film.  Responsible for structuring her personal story from the many hundreds of hours of footage, Watts contributed to the cohesiveness in the first person narrative in which the audience can easily relate and sympathize with.  It also puts faces onto the innocent victims of Syrians, of which approximately 500,000 people were killed in the country where 11 million people were seeking refuge or were replaced internally between 2012 and 2017.

This film not only shows the intimate and epic journey into the female perspective of war, but also it shows it as more of a more human one, as well.  This is essential viewing for all.

Opens July 26th, 2019 in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.

Director Edward Watts. Courtesy of PBS Distribution.

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A WIDE ARRAY OF INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS AT SF PEPCOM SHOW

The Entrance of Pepcom’s Digital Experience show held in San Francisco. Photo by Marcus Siu

Article and photos by Marcus Siu

Pepcom’s “Digital Experience just had their show late last month at San Francisco’s Metreon City View, where a wide array of technology companies exhibited their latest innovative consumer products to the members of the press.  The demo showcase was a much more intimate affair compared to previous shows.  The usual categories ranging from computers, connected home, and personal health were there, as were some unusual products like mine detectors, hacking games and digital license plates. 

Lenovo displayed their latest line of laptops at the Digital Experience at Pepcom. Photo by Marcus Siu.

As a journalist who eagerly looks forward to this event every year, but at the same time is beset with miserable seasonal allergies, it can be quite challenging to have enough energy for me to even get to the venue.  Around this time, I have a sniffling, runny nose along with a cough that I can’t ever seem to get rid of.  Unfortunately, this year was my worse bout with allergies ever and wasn’t even sure if I was suffering from just allergies, a cold, or a combination of the two.  To top it off, I had a sinus infection, as well.

Courtesy of Tivic Health

Luckily I stumbled upon the Tivic Health booth where they were demonstrating their bioelectronic device called the “ClearUp Sinus Pain Relief”.  Since I was still suffering from allergies and a sinus infection, I couldn’t think of a better candidate than myself to try it out.  Using non-evasive microcurrent waveforms, the procedure just took five minutes of gliding the product around the nose, top of my cheek and above the eyes, the product vibrates certain treatment points on my face.

After the treatment nearly a month later, it seems my allergies were minor and nearly non-existent. I’ve never breathed freely in the month of May and June in over a decade.  It’s been a big relief for me, since I usually am coughing in the middle of the night for several weeks at a time and not getting any sleep.  Perhaps it was a combination of the antibiotics and the treatment, but I can swear this gizmo seemed to work pretty well for me, even by trying it once.  I really may just want to buy one of these for my well being, as it just got its launch on Indiegogo this month.

Cloud AlphaTM S Gaming Headset – The new Cloud Alpha S features dual chamber technology that delivers accurate in-game sound with incredible range and tone.  Courtesy of Hyper X.

In terms of latest and greatest in innovation in the Entertainment arena, one of the best products for movies, music and gaming comes from a company mainly known for gaming; HyperX.  They developed an amazing gaming 3D 7.1 surround headset, powered by Audeze 100mm Planar Magnetic Drivers, that can rival audiophile headsets.  Not only do you get the best in gaming effects, but the best in movie sound effects, as well as a pure live sound in music that tracks your head, using Waves Technology, in a 360 degree environment.  This is an item that brings out the best in sound effects for anything you listen to.  I couldn’t take the headset off as I was impressed with the technology of this gadget.  This headset will be released in Q3.

Cloud Orbit S gaming headsets were developed in cooperation with AudezeTM and Waves® Technology. The headsets are the first HyperX gaming headsets powered by Audeze’s patented 100mm Planar Magnetic Drivers for accurate sound. Photo by Marcus Siu

Kingston Technology added a new product in their microSD line with another innovative product that will tailor to the needs of security cameras, including home surveillance and dash cams.  The Kingston MicroSD High Endurance series (32GB, 64GB, 128GB) will stand through the most extreme conditions as it can continuously record 20,000 hours of 1080p video on a 128GB card on security cameras and dash cams.  That’s about 2 years and 3 months of non-stop recording.  No need to worry about the housing of the card, as it will protect no matter how cold or hot the temperature becomes or no matter how blistery or wet it becomes.

Kingston’s High Endurance microSD card are especially designed for write-intensive application use such as home security and surveillance cameras, dash cams and body cams.  Courtesy of Kingston.

We all heard of Miracle-Gro plant food that we feed our plants with.  Now they have come out with an innovative hydroponic growing system called the Miracle-Gro Twelve Indoor Growing System., which was also designed to be stackable, if more plants are needed.  This would be useful for people who have a need for herbs all year around, such as basil and mint or vegetables, such as lettuce and kale.  Now no need to worry about whether or not the herbs are in season ever again.  No watering systems are needed; just electricity and some space indoors.  Via Bluetooth, you can control watering, feeding and the lights from your smartphone’s app.  Notifications may warn you when you are low in water or if the water pump is stalled.  Seems like anyone can now be a Tom Thumb if they have a smart-phone, but don’t forget to give it some Miracle-Gro nutrient food.

Miracle-Gro Twelve Indoor Growing System. Photo by Marcus Siu.

There is a new resurgence in searching for precious metals these days.  Like the 49’ers  in California back in the 1800’s searching for gold, today’s technology has improved with the combination of a smartphone app as it can detect what metals are underneath the surface ground.  Miners and adventurers alike are now buying metal detectors in droves, making Minelab the global leader in metal detection technology in Gold mining.

Offering two different metal detectors, the “Go Find” series, which makes an affordable and fun activity for the entire family, just like how mushroom hunting can be, and the “Equinox” series, for the die hard user with a multitude of options who knows exactly what type of metal they are searching for.  Designed more for the archaeologist or mine squad experts.

Even the basic Minelab “Go Find” series will find some treasure.  Courtesy of Minelab.

 

The Reviver Company has come out with an industry first: a digital licence plate.  They have been working very closely with state regulatory agencies in collaboration with the DMV.  They have been fully approved by California and Arizona with Texas and Florida not far behind as they have already passed legislation with more states to follow.

Of course, the real question is do we really need a connected licence plate?  It may sound funny, but it is simply an advancement of the “smart-car-connected car” going full fledge into the smart cities infrastructure world that we will be all apart of .

It will help benefit consumers, businesses and state agencies —from automated vehicle renewals, to parking and tolling, to safety and security.  Since the plates are essentially built-in hardware that is capable of updating via software, it will make it much more fun for the registered vehicle user to be able to customize their plates and adding their personal messaging, such as “I’d rather be running…for president”.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind having one saying, “I’d rather be at Pepcom”.

Reviver’s Rplate, the world’s first digital license plate.                 Photo by Marcus Siu.

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IT’S JUST SO NREAL AT AWE 2019

 

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Nreal booth at AWE2019 in Santa Clara.                                                                    Photo by Marcus Siu

Article and photos by Marcus Siu

As soon as the Expo floor was opened at the Convention Center on Day One at this year’s 2019 AWE conference in Santa Clara, much of the crowd gathered in the congested nreal booth at the main entrance of the hall.  With great anticipation, hoards were checking out the various AR demos on display, as well as queuing up in long lines getting ready to ask questions regarding the release of the upcoming SDK developer kit.

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Nreal booth at AWE2019 in Santa Clara.                                                   Photo by Marcus Siu

Six nreal glasses were on display surrounding the booth and demonstrated non-stop and around the clock with impressive mixed reality and even trailers of movies, such as the latest installment of “Mission Impossible”.  There were longer demos that required longer wait times, but it was truly worth it, as the demos showcased an impressive demo reel of 3D AR experiences.  

nreal, not to be confused with the elite graphics game engine, “Unreal”, though like “Unreal”, this company seems to put its priority on delivering high quality and immersive visuals in the Mixed Reality landscape that are quite “eye popping”, as well.

Indeed, nreal is one of the newest and exciting consumer product companies to emerge recently.  They were this year’s recipient at CES 2019 for “Best Startup” company by Engadget, and have been actively developing ready-to-wear mixed reality devices since 2017.  In addition to attending the CES show in Las Vegas early this year, they also made an appearance at the GDC (Games Developer’s Conference) in San Francisco in March.

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Nreal booth at AWE2019 in Santa Clara.                            Photo by Marcus Siu

At the Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara last Thursday, they announced that they will be shipping the nreal Light Consumer Kit ($1199), which sports a 1080p resolution, 52-degree field of view smart glasses and a 3DoF controller and computing unit.  In addition they will also be shipping the smart glasses without the controller and computing unit for $499, which can also be used in conjunction with any smartphone using the Snapdragon 855.

To achieve its relatively low price, the nreal Light Consumer Kit requires consumers to use Android devices that are powered by the Snapdragon 855 chip by Qualcomm, who nreal is also partnering with.  Phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 series, Sony Xperia 1, LG G8, and the Lenovo Z5 Pro GT all contain the 855 processor and are fully compatible with the nreal Light.

Weighing at a light three ounces, these comfortable MR glasses sport an industry-leading wide-screen vivid display with a stunning 1080p HD resolution, bypassing the visual quality of the Microsoft’s Hololens and MagicLeap. Combined with its SLAM-based environment-understanding AI algorithms, nreal offers a truly immersive MR experience for their flagship product.

“We’re excited to finally make nreal Light available to consumers, which at just $499 has dramatically lowered the barrier to adoption and introduces a new category for mixed reality devices that are finally within the reach of an average consumer,” said Chi Xu, CEO and founder of nreal, in a statement.

The cost makes this truly affordable for this type of technology.  The cost is much lower than their Microsoft competitors.

Both will be shipping September of this year.

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Nreal booth at AWE2019 in Santa Clara.                          Photo by Marcus Siu

 

Based in Beijing, this company  just seemed to just come out of nowhere and has a good chance to become a major player in the wearable A/R smart glasses market industry in the coming years.  Looking forward to seeing how they advance the industry.

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FILM STUDIOS REJOICE: WELCOME TO OMNIVERSE – ONE SHARED UNIFIED WORLD FOR FILMMAKERS

Article by Marcus Siu

At the GTC 2019 Keynote conference in San Jose this month, Nvidia’s CEO and founder Jensen Huang announced Omniverse, an open collaboration platform to simplify studio workflows for real-time graphics.

This has been in the works for nearly 25 years with the company, who have been long trying to make this happen throughout the years, worked closely with Pixar Animation Studios.  With Omniverse, the production pipeline in producing a full featured animated film now has become much simpler and more efficient in the process, as well as being a big money saver for the Hollywood animation studios.

Huang explained, “If you take a look at a major film and it cost something like $300M to 350M to produce that film and the vast majority of it is post production which is otherwise known as rendering and it might take something along the lines of that year and a half a year to year and a half.”

“If you could even save one month on what is otherwise a one year long project, the amount of money you could possibly say is in the millions and so this is one of the reasons why this industry is such in a hurry to find ways to accelerate the rendering process and to accelerate the production process.”

Making animated films has always been labor intensive throughout the complete complex rendering pipeline; from the beginning of its concept, modeling, texturing, rigging, animation, lighting and finally, the rendering process itself.

“You have to render it make it look totally perfect…and then once you create the character, you have to composite a whole bunch of other characters in the scene and all the environments and all the special effects…are done in physics simulation it is so so complicated.”  Huang continued, “…a few shots may be assigned to a studio, a few shots would be assigned to another studio… as a result, multiple studios in multiple sites are all working on a movie at the same time.”

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Omniverse includes portals — two-way tunnels — that maintain live connections between industry-standard applications such as Autodesk Maya, Adobe Photoshop and Epic Games’ Unreal Engine.

This new open collaboration platform streamlines 2D and 3D product pipelines across industries. Omniverse is built around the latest industry standards for design collaboration.

It supports Pixar’s Universal Scene Description technology for exchanging information about modeling, shading, animation, lighting, visual effects and rendering across multiple applications. It also supports NVIDIA’s Material Definition Language, which allows artists to exchange information about surface materials across multiple tools.

In addition to Pixar, there are presently more than 200 animation film studios around the world but you can now work with any film studio no matter which continent they are located in.

Astonishingly, graphic artists and designers will be able to view updates made in real time, as though they are in the same room sitting next to each other through NVIDIA’s Omniverse Viewer, which gives users a live look at work being done in a wide variety of tools.  No matter where the filmmakers or studios are, even if they are working with on remote laptops, Omniverse connects and unifies all the designers together from anywhere making it one identifiable project, instead of hundreds of small projects that studios have been so accustomed to throughout the years.

To top it off, the Omniverse Viewer delivers the highest quality photorealistic images in real time by taking advantage of rasterization as well as support for NVIDIA RTX RT Cores, CUDA cores and Tensor Core-enabled AI.

“With Omniverse, NVIDIA has created a product artists will be eager to put to work,” said Guido Quaroni, vice president of Software at Pixar. “When we open sourced USD, our goal was to make it easier to combine complex characters and environments into a single scene. Omniverse raises the bar, leveraging USD to enable scalable real-time collaborative workflows across some of the industry’s major software packages.”

Users can watch projects unfold in real-time through the tool of their choice or the Omniverse Viewer.

With Omniverse, artists can see live updates made by other artists working in different applications. They can also see changes reflected in multiple tools at the same time.

As a result, artists now have the flexibility to use the best tool for the task at hand.

For example an artist using Maya with a portal to Omniverse can collaborate with another artist using UE4 and both will see live updates of each others’ changes in their application.

Whether it’s Epic Games, Adobe or Autodesk, or any other Pixar collaborator, they are all encouraged by the new platform, as it allows artists to collaborate regardless of the tool they use and without the need for time-consuming conversions.

“We love the idea of connecting tools from all vendors to enable collaborative workflows,” said Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games. “We adopted USD and MDL to streamline workflows where assets originate from many different applications, so it’s great to see NVIDIA extend that ecosystem to enable live connections with simultaneous updates.”

“Omniverse is an exciting concept that will enable artists around the world to collaborate on digital content creation,” said Sebastien Deguy, vice president of 3D and Immersive at Adobe. “We look forward to seeing its development and evolution.”

“We’re thrilled to explore the potential of NVIDIA Omniverse to give our customers access to immersive, interactive and collaborative experiences across industries,” said Amy Bunszel, senior vice president of Design and Creation Products at Autodesk. “We share their vision of better world modeling and simulation. By combining USD and RTX, Omniverse promises to accelerate the future of design and make.”

Huang professed at the Keynote address, “I can’t wait to see the first major motion movie made by Pixar, rendered completely on RTX”.  With Omniverse, it should be even more productive.

“To infinity and beyond!”

Here is a video demonstrating Omniverse at the Keynote, with CEO Jensen Huang.

 

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OSCAR PREDICTIONS: WE ARE LIVING IN A GLOBAL ACADEMY: #OscarsSoGlobal

 

Article by Marcus Siu

This year’s announcement for the 91st Annual Academy Awards nominations certainly has diversity written all over it.  Especially when compared to the “elitist” years of 2015-16, during the time when the controversial #OscarsSoWhite hashtag was used to protest the under representation of people of color in the nomination process when all twenty nominees in the acting categories were all white for the second year in a row.

After the immediate outcry, the 6000+ member Academy of Motion Pictures of Arts and Science (AMPAS) responded quickly and invited not only more black filmmakers, but international filmmakers, as well. That year, out of the 663 new members recruited, 46% were women and 41% were people of color.  That may have helped the nomination process the following two years, as, there were a total of eight black actors nominated for acting categories, with two black actors winning awards; Viola Davis for “Fences” and Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight” in 2017.

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Conversation Between Two New York Filmmakers – Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee at a Special Screening of BlackkKlansman”. -Pictured: Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee -Photo by: Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix -Location: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center

Today, after a few years have passed since the #OscarSoWhite protest, it seemed appropriate, after 40 years of making unforgettable American films about American race relations in the black community, Spike Lee finally received recognition with his first ever “Best Director” nomination with “BlacKkKlansman”, which also received six nominations, including “Best Picture” and  Best Screenplay”, his second since “Do the Right Thing” thirty years ago, in which he shares writing credits.

Even though the Academy gave Lee an Honorary Oscar in 2015, he has always been highly critical and outspoken in the past about the Academy’s nomination process.  Being only the sixth black director to have been nominated for an Oscar, he will create history if he wins by being the very first black director to have ever won.

Despite not having a “Best Director” nomination, it was still encouraging to see Ryan Coogler’s film “Black Panther” getting seven nominations, which makes the people and the Kingdom of Wakanda especially proud, as it is the first time a comic book-based type movie was ever taken seriously.  It also received a Best Picture nomination. Not only has it reaped its rewards at the box by being the 9th highest grossing movie of all time, but it also surprised everyone by recently taking the top prize at the SAG awards for Best Outstanding Cast Ensemble.

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Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo in Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Image by Alfonso Cuarón.
 Photo courtesy of Netflix.

As with the lack of representation of black filmmakers over the years, the same could be said about any other race or culture.  Just last year, the National Hispanic Media Coalition staged a pre-Oscars protest a few weeks ago to call attention to the dismal representation of Hispanic Americans in film.  It is safe to say that it certainly didn’t hurt them this year with “Roma”, sharing the lead with “The Favourite” with ten nominations”.

With 17% of the U.S. population being Hispanic, you can expect excitement within the Latino community surrounding the Oscars this year with “Roma” leading the pack. It also received four individual Oscar nominations for Alfonso Cuarón alone (as producer, director, writer and cinematographer), which has only been done twice before by a director; Warren Beatty for “Reds” and the Coen Brothers for “No Country for Old Men”.

Also, having two Mexican actresses nominated in the same year for the same film in a foreign language Best Actress nominee, Yalitza Aparicio, in her first-time role, along with a Best Supporting Actress nominee Marina De Tavira is a historic first.  It could be a big night for “Roma”, Cuarón, Mexico, and Netflix, who has officially become a Hollywood disrupter with its original content. Viva Mexico!

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Tomasz Kot in Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War”. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Not only is Mexico well represented at this year’s Oscars, but so is Eastern Europe.  In addition to getting Best Foreign film nods for Roma”, Poland’s “Cold War” and Germany’s ‘“Never Look Back” have also each received a “Best Cinematography” nomination, and a rare “Best Director” nomination for Pawel Pawlikowski for “Cold War”.

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Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in the film THE FAVOURITE. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

How can you say diversity exists unless you have some LGBTQ written into the scripts? Five of the nominated films for “Best Picture” certainly have them; most notably in “The Favourite” which takes lesbian royal perversity to new heights; especially with the final ending climax of the film. With the gorgeous Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, how can a queen refuse this bizarre love triangle?

Other LGBTQ characters or themes in the other nominated films include Dr. Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali in “Green Book”, Queen’s Freddie Mercury played by Rami Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody, Dick Cheney’s daughter, Mary, who comes out of the closet in “Vice,” and the son of a Baptist preacher is forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program after being forcibly outed to his parents in “A Star is Born”.

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Rami Malek stars as Freddie Mercury in Twentieth Century Fox’s BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. Photo Credit: Alex Bailey. TM & © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

If we were still living in 1989, the year that “Driving Miss Daisy” won for “Best Picture” and “Do the Right Thing” only received an original screenplay nomination for Spike Lee, and some fortune teller told you that a small independent movie about a young, gay black man growing up in an impoverished Miami neighborhood would be a future “Best Picture” winner…would you believe him?

Times certainly have changed with the Oscars and “diversity” happens to be the new word.  We are officially now living in a global Academy.

(This is a revised but similar article that originally appears in CC Magazine – Feb 2019 issue)

Oscar Predictions:

Best Picture: “Roma”
Best Actor: Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Best Actress: Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Best Supporting Actress: Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Best Adapted Screenplay: “BlacKkKlansman”
Best Original Screenplay: “The Favourite”
Best Cinematography: “Cold War”
Best Costume Design: “The Favourite”
Best Film Editing: “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: “Vice”
Best Music (Original Score): “BlacKkKlansman”,
Best Music (Original Song): “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born”
Best Production Design: “The Favourite”
Best Sound Editing: “First Man”
Best Sound Mixing: “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Best Visual Effects: “First Man”
Best Animated Feature Film: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
Best Foreign Language Film: “Roma”
Best Documentary (Feature): “Free Solo”
Best Documentary (Short Subject): ”Period. End of Sentence”
Best Short Film (Animated): “Bao”
Best Short Film (Live Action): “Skin”

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A MOMENT IN TIME WITH “COLD WAR”: DIRECTOR, PAWEL PAWLIKOWSKI

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Joanna Kulig & Tomasz Kot star in Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War”.   Winner of five Europeon Film Awards.   Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

Article by Marcus Siu

2018 was a banner year for film writer-director, Pawel Pawlikowski.  Last year, he was awarded “Best Director” prize for his film, “Cold War” when it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.  In December, he won two European Film Awards for both his writing and directing, while his film took “Best Picture” honors, with his lead actress Joanna Kulig, taking the “Best Actress” award.

The journey continues this year for Pawlikowski, as he was just recently nominated for “Best Director” at this year’s Academy Awards, which is certainly a rare feat that only few international directors have accomplished for a foreign film.

As Pawlikowski was honored with yet another award (“Outstanding Directors of the Year”) shared with the “other” four Academy Award nominees at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, he discovered his airplane flight from Southern California to the Bay Area was going to be delayed due to inclement weather.  That would have certainly postponed his arrival as he was due to give a Q&A in San Francisco for a private screening for “Cold War” that evening.

Like the instincts of a prominent film director and not afraid of taking any risks, he made his decision swiftly and on the spot. Without hesitation, he rented a car and drove eight hours through California’s rampant storms and pouring rain to make it on time for his Q&A.  Since the Bay Area hadn’t seen that much rain in quite awhile, it was very questionable to the audience that there would be one.  Luckily for the audience, he managed to show up on time and unharmed.

The fierce weather that evening seemed to have symbolized the stormy torrential relationship of the passionate couple in his latest movie, “Cold War”, a tumultuous love story set in Post-war Europe.  The film is loosely based on Pawlikowski’s parents who had passed away in 1989, at the end of the Cold War before the Berlin wall came down.  It is a story about two very different people with very different backgrounds, temperaments and ambitions that spans nearly 20 years from the 1940’s that takes place in Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris that were destined to be together.

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Joanna Kulig as Zula & Tomasz Kot as Wiktor in Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War”. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Ironically, besides their obvious desire for one another,  the only real common link was that they are both accomplished musicians.   Wiktor, (Tomasz Kot), is a extremely talented musician, whose musical passion is mainly with Western music, specifically in jazz, whereas Zula, (Joanna Kulig), is a singer/dancer who eventually becomes the star of the Mazurek, a Polish folk arts ensemble that Wiktor leads as musical director.  Though having no real interest in Polish folk music, Wiktor uses his occupational position as a way to funnel musical talent, such as Zula, who will eventually record a “Western influenced” vocal album in France under his guidance that becomes a artistic success, even though she despises him for it.

Other than that, they are complete opposites of one another.

With a precarious relationship already established surrounded by an ever increasing growing social-political environmental climate, it makes it even more problematic for the couple.  As the Mazurek increasingly becomes a more successful international ensemble, the Stalinist regime takes advantage of their popularity and uses them specifically for communist political propaganda purposes mainly for their own benefit, and in the meantime, bans all of Western music in Poland.

Again, there is no option but for Wiktor to go West to Paris for his “musical desires” and escape for personal freedom, whereas Zulu is just fine living in her village surrounded with communism…or is she?

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Joanna Kulig stars as Zula in Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War”. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Prior to “Cold War”, Pawlikowski directed “Ida”, which won Poland its first Foreign Film for the Academy Awards, though it didn’t come without some controversy within their country.   In contrast to “Cold War”, “Ida” seems like a perfect companion piece for it.  Both films run less than 90 minutes long, shot in Academy format (1.33 to 1), and is in pristine black and white.  It wasn’t until after “Ida” was completed, that Pawlikowski was able to construct a real narrative into his story rather than just ideas and concepts.  He realized that to write the story for his film, he had to make it “not” about his parents.

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Tomasz Kot stars as Wiktor in Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War”. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

At the Q&A session, Pawlikowski was asked why “Cold War” was shot the way it was.

“Choices can be intuitive…this should be black and white and the right format for the story – One of things, I couldn’t think of any color palette for Poland at that time, it wasn’t very colorful, I wanted to the film to be punchy and dramatic as possible.  Some of the black and white scenes are much more effective than the colors of that time”, Pawlikowski explains.  As far as the Academy Ration, “I like directing around it, it makes you feel more inventive, no restrictions.  I like to do portraits and double portraits; it’s very good for composing in depth”.

It certainly shows in the stunning black and white images from Cinematographer, Lukasz Zal’s camerawork, as he just received his second Oscar nomination for “Cold War”.  His first is for “Ida”.  The details shine throughout both films.

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Joanna Kulig & Tomasz Kot star in Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War” Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

An amusing question came from the audience from a viewer who asked what it felt like to be nominated this year for “Best Director” for this year’s Academy Awards.

Pawlikowksi reflects from the previous evening…

“Funny, you cannot pretend you don’t care, and you get onto this elevator and it just carries you – what is fun is you end up with a bunch of film people who are completely with you and are great characters.  Yesterday I had a session with five nominated directors (Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Alfonso Cuarón (Roma), Andy McKay (Vice), and Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite))… …such great characters… one of the good things is that you meet extraordinary people.

….  Overall, it’s a good experience…I recommend it.”

The audience roared in laughter.

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Pawel Pawlikowski at a recent screening in San Francisco.   Photo by Marcus Siu

 

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CAPERNAUM:  MIRACLES DO HAPPEN

“Capernaum”, translates into “Chaos”, the original Biblical meaning of the word was about a place that was cursed, but also a place where miracles could happen. 

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Left to right: Boluwatife Treasure Bankole as Yonas, Zain Al Rafeea as Zain.  Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Article by Marcus Siu

“Capernaum” begins with an emotional, foul-mouthed but sad-eyed Lebanese boy, named “Zain”, (Zain Al Rafeea), shackled in handcuffs in his prison uniform in a courtroom receiving his penalty for a crime.  After his sentence, he seeks justice by requesting that he wishes to sue his parents for the “crime” of giving him life.

Naturally, a child cannot legally sue their parents for being born in any country, but it certainly brings awareness that those around him that something has gone awry within his environment.  Especially of an undocumented child, like Zain, who has no papers or documents to prove he even exists.  Certainly, to pass judgement on his parents as the ones to blame would be way too simple.  Life is more complex than that.

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Left to right: Zain Al Rafeea as Zain, Cedra Izam as Sahar Photo by Christopher Aoun, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Through Zain’s point of view, we see how he got into this grave situation.  We see his unbearable living conditions, his abusive parents, and the unforgivable reason why he decided to run away involving his younger sister whom he adored.  Without much of a plan, we see him struggling to survive out in the in the poverty stricken shantytown streets of Beirut.

Somehow, he uses his street smarts in order to survive and to find shelter, where he befriends Rahil, a poor illegal Ethiopian refugee mother who takes him in as her own, despite working illegally.  He soon looks after her infant baby while she is away, not only as a “big brother”, but also as a maternal parent as they become his new “family”.

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Left to right: Yordanos Shiferaw as Rahil Photo by Fares Sokhon, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Director Nadine Labaki marvelously casted non-professional actors playing characters whose past resembled their own, set amongst the poor with its social-political problems and filmed on location, much like the Italian neorealist films.  Labaki explains, “I wanted to find people where there is very little difference between them and the character. And then I wanted to ask them to go on their raw instinct and just be.”

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Left to right: Nadine Labaki and Zain Al Rafeea Photo by Fares Sokhon, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

In fact, Yordanos Shiferaw, who plays Rahil, was actually a refugee from Ethiopia and was living illegally in Lebanon while filming the movie.  Three days after playing a scene of being arrested in the film, she was actually arrested for not having an ID card and spent two weeks in jail, before Labaki and her husband, producer and composer Khaled Mouzanar were able to bail her out.

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Left to right: Zain Al Rafeea as Zain, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole as Yonas Photo by Christopher Aoun, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Labaki couldn’t command these non-actors to be able to act on demand, so instead of the typical “action” or “cut” that directors prompt with, she let the actors act at their own pace with her flexible script, and kept the cameras rolling.  The results are scenes that are authentic, heartfelt, and poignant that may be impossible from a professional cast, especially Zain Al Rafeea, who is a revelation.

After filming was complete, there was over 600 hours of footage which took 2 ½ years to edit the final film.  The first cut was 14 hours long, but was finally trimmed down to two to make the Cannes Film Festival in May.  There, it had its world premiere and it received a 15-minute standing ovation.  It also took the Grand Jury Prize at the prestigious festival and continued to sweep audience awards globally.

Miracles do happen.

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Left to right: Zain Al Rafeea as Zain, director Nadine Labaki at a recent Q&A session at the Smith-Rafael Film Center. Photo by Marcus Siu.

(Originally printed in the January 2019 issue of CC Magazine)

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