Monday, April 29, 2013

Movie Review: Oblivion (2013)

I'm just going to open this blog with a little forewarning. I'm a whore for great musical scores. And by great musical scores, i don't mean your generic Sex Pistols sound where your pounding on a guitar with a hammer and occasionally changing the tone by randomly detuning the strings. I mean, harmonious musical compositions that use, for lack of better words, the musical literary devices. I say literary devices because at it's most fundamental level, music is the universal language of the world. an 1-3-5 chord progression will communicate in the same ways to someone in the United States as they would in Uganda.

I say this because it plays a big part in the review of the new Tom Cruise movie Oblivion. Now that we have that understanding in place allow me to open up by saying that Oblivion appears to move slower than it actually is. Without revealing too much, the movie starts with the first half hour covering the day-to-day routine of Tom Cruise's character with only the subtlest of undertones about what exactly is happening. As a matter of fact, it was not until a specific pool scene around 45 minutes (if i had to make a guess) that the pieces of the puzzle were all fleshed out and the movie almost begs the viewers to begin speculating about what exactly is going on with the world it presents you with. And it's done so smoothly that you really don't even begin to think about it until it's too late and the speculation is made.

Oblivion is a Science Fiction movie based somewhere around 2068 where the entire world is in ruins. Partly because an alien race tried to glass the surface of the planet, and partly because that same alien race shattered the moon causing tidal distress and severe earth quakes along all the fault lines of the world. It is supposedly 60-ish years after the events that left the world the way it is, and now the human species lives on Titan, one of Jupiter's moons and a space station shaped like a pyramid that is in orbit of the planet. Tom Cruise plays a maintenance man with some insane firearms and flight training who is tasked with repairing security drones.

Diverting from the plot-line before i say too much, i just want to go on record stating that the scenery in this movie is compelling. I would even be so bold as to say it's breath taking. The characters are surprisingly well developed, even though some of them only have a short screen life, and the music really seals the deal. The music to me was a nice, inspiring mixture between what Daft Punk made for Tron: Legacy and some of the exploratory music of EvE Online. Combine that with some of the eerily calm yet desolate scenery the movie provides with you, and the very powerful plot twist that will take all of that speculation it invited you to make and throw it out the window without a care, i would give this movie a very strong recommendation and suggest that anyone who wants scenery that will blow you away just like the world of Tron or the Lord of the Rings, definitely go and see Oblivion, the next chance you get.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Youtube Partnership 3: Breaking 1,000 subscribers

So, you've created your YouTube page and you've got a constant stream of content coming out on a schedule set by you recorded by you preferable sometime earlier than when they're being released. Depending on your content, things might be picking up quickly, or they could slowly building speed and size like a snowball rolling down the alpines.

Regardless of how quickly your content grows your following, and have no illusions, it is your content that grows your following, not you. You merely grow the content. Your page is going to hit a wall where subscriptions are going to slow down, views per day might become stagnant or go down in numbers, and your monthly earnings might stand still at a specific number. Depending on where that stops, it might seem easy to just toss in the towel and retire from making YouTube videos, or it might seem easy to become content with what you're doing and do nothing to prevent the stagnation.

The sad fact of the matter is: You've got to put in work to get paid. Nothing in this world is free and the sooner you accept that and view your profile page with that set of eyes, you can begin to grow your content and following to new levels.

I've seen a lot of people on YouTube doing the what I like to call the raffle gimmick. Where once they've reached that wall in their subscriber base, they start doing raffles for certain valuable items that they either buy out of pocket, or some corporate sponsor, somewhere gives to them to promote awareness for their business and their products. This doesn't always work. You get short-term subscribers that don't really care about your content, and really only care about the prize at hand. Most if not all of them will not win the raffle, and most of them will unsubscribe after they get tired of seeing your new videos on their home page when they have no interest in your content.

The best way to grow your subscriber base, is the same way you built it up in the first place with a twist. In order to get the subscriber base you currently hold, you created a format. This format carried you only so far, but like a car, even if you buy it new, it's eventually going to break down beyond reasonable repair and need to be replaced. So using that logic, it's time to update your image. By now, you should have some checks flowing in from your YouTube partnership, Regardless of the frequency. I can't state how much mine are for, but I can tell you that as it stands right now, I get one about every other month.

If you take some of that money and re-apply it to your content, whether it be going to some of those sound clip websites and buying sound bytes, buying the rights to someone's music to use as an intro song, or paying a 2D or 3D Artist to make you a new, professional looking opening animation according to the image you have in your head. Don't be afraid to take pointers from some of the YouTube greats. Freddie Wong, Corridor Digital, Smosh, Julian Smith, and the Nice Peter/Epic Lloyd duo that is Epic Rap Battles of History all have the right idea, they're redoing the outros to their videos to advertise their second channels which is usually fully of behind the scenes footage, other videos inside the series if it's not exactly a linear series, and having some very smooth captioning work on their videos.

Some of these ideas won't work for everyone, but you can at least write down some of these prominent ideas on how to make better videos, write them down on a piece of paper and just do some old fashioned brainstorming. "How can I implement these practices into my videos?" "How much longer in production time are we looking at to implement them?" "How will my existing subscriber base respond to the revisions I make?" and most importantly: "What do my current subscribers have to say about my existing videos?"

I am currently on Gen 4 of my YouTube page, Every time I'm completely finished with a tutorial series, I review the input posted in the comments about it, and work on how to seriously overhaul my series to improve it for people. My Gen. 1 phase were some excruciating low quality videos with me fooling around with the idea of doing instruction for my page. People received the practices well, and liked my teaching methods but didn't like how unsure I sounded of the content and didn't like the quality. Gen 2 was going high definition and trying to become more confident in my content. I started releasing videos in 720p, reduced the "ums" and "uhs" in my videos. Then people started pointing out that I was really monotone. I sounded really boring and I kept finishing my videos in an annoying way to a lot of people. Gen. 3 was fixing those issues. Started sounding more enthusiastic during my opening, and soon as I got to the content, I got serious. I also shortened the way I ended my videos. Then Gen. 4 I felt it was time to have an opening clip for my videos. So I downloaded a trial version of After Effects, slaved away at the technical side of the program, so I had enough knowledge to be dangerous with the program, and then I created a simple 5 second intro that I put at the front of every one of my videos now. My responses are positive and I've recently sky-rocketed past 1000 subscribers.

 Every time I did a revision it seemed like my subscriber base wasn't really going anywhere any more. My page became stagnant. Between Gen 3 and Gen 4, my subscriber base was stuck at about 350 subscribers. And now in the 4 months of Gen 4 that I've been working through, My subscribers have sky-rocketed past 1000 and I'm now currently sitting at about 1200 subscribers now. So if you're experiencing some of the woes of subscriber stagnation and you're doing everything right, don't just sit idly and watch it sit still. Work towards some positive revisions to the presentation of your content to bring yourself a little further into the future. That in itself will give back to the community enough to get more people coming in.

People want a consistent source of entertainment and to provide that your channel and presentation of content needs to be constantly evolving to give them a new and exciting experience. What they don't want is free stuff, because if they don't win, they don't care anymore. You'll shoot yourself in the foot if you try to do a quick fix.

How many of you have a YouTube partnership now? How are you doing popularity wise? Do you have any input for people who are looking to spread their roots a little further?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Movie Review: Evil Dead (2013)

I know it's a bit late in the game to be doing a review of the reboot of Evil Dead, but I figured I wanted to chip in my two cents about the movie.

For those of you who don't know, the original Evil Dead movie was released in the year 1981, starred the king of B movies, Bruce Campbell, and was kind of cheesy. The basic plot was that 5 friends traveled to a cabin in the middle of the woods, and somehow accidentally release demons possessing the corpses of the dead. The movie was best known for Bruce Campbell's Chainsaw for a hand.

As for the new boot of the movie the plot is generally speaking, the same. 5 friends go to a cabin in the middle of the woods for a drug intervention and to help one of them go cold turkey on some hardcore shit, and they somehow accidentally release a demon that possess people and feeds off their souls to release satan back on the world. All fine and good, a lot of the appeal to this movie was for the nostalgia of the original movie that the directors and producers seemed bent to avoid at all costs.

It was a generic slasher flick where the horror is brief and usually consists of Idiot A goes off by themselves, Demon B magically appears unexpectedly and feasts on Idiot A like a fat kid at a HoHo factory. The redeeming factors was that it lacked that nostalgia factor from the original movie which in my mind showed that it was trying to be it's own movie instead of trying to be some retarded prequel or some even more retarded and much to late sequel. That and the special effects were good. Something tells me that for the most part the movie producers went old school and avoided CG as much as possible as a lot of the really gory stuff looked pretty real.

The plot is predictable, you can easily pick out who is going to live and who is going to die within the first 3 minutes of the movie, you can expect almost everything that happens 30 second before it happens which ends up making all the scary stuff comical.

So all in all, I'd recommend waiting for this movie to come out on Red Box, Netflix, the 5-dollar bin at Walmart, or your local dollar store. Because in all seriousness, the dog is the best actor in the whole movie.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tech Review: Droid 4 - 14 month benchmark

In my last review which was only about 3 months after I had gotten the phone I pointed out some of the specs regarding the Motorola Droid 4, and went over some of the pros and cons that I had found at the time. Now that I have owned it for 14 months, and I've seen the phone go full cycle with some of my friends as watched how it handled the tests of time and abuse from me, I figured now was as good a time as any to make a quick review of exactly what has happened with the phone.

In my last review the only beef I had, if I remember correctly, was that the headphone jack was a little wonky and the back plate was a pain in the ass to remove. Well since then I have discovered exactly how unnecessary it is to remove the back plate, so that has become so much less of a nuisance. Not to mention that the tab holding the back plate in can be pressed down and the back plate removed (in the same painful and rather inconvenient way as mentioned before) with just about any writing utensil and not just the stupid looking key they provide you with the phone. The headphone jack, while a bit touchy has stayed just about the same, no further issues have arisen from that whether it be further sound loss or more frequent dead spots in the socket. It pretty much stayed right at the condition it was in when I got it. I also found that the best way to fix any issues you might have with that socket is to first try twisting the headphone jack a little in 1 direction and see if that fixes it, if not, then just pull the jack out, and re-seat it. This will fix any sound loss 99% of the time.

Another chief concern I had walking out of the Verizon store with this phone was the power button, it looks flimsy, because it kind of is. not in the sense that it snapped clean in half after 3 uses or the switch below it gunked up and gave out 12 months in, but in the sense that it's a tiny piece of plastic with a tab on either long-wise edge, and it just kind of teeters on the awkwardly placed switch for the power button. This button, however, has held up surprisingly well given the unintentional abuse that all of my phones tend to get. Some of the metallic paint has rubbed off from the excessive use but other than that the button is still sound, still pops pretty damn close to as clean as it did when it came off the shelf and into my hands.

The Keyboard for the phone has held up well. Part of the reason I got rid of my old Droid 1 was that the buttons on my keyboard literally started peeling off the phone. the droid 1's keyboard was glued onto the phone's switches with some pretty weak rubber cement like stuff, however it looks like the Droid 4's keyboard is 1 solid piece of plastic that wraps under the circuit board?(I'm not 100% sure on this but that keyboard is not coming off) This is a beautiful thing because even though the paint is starting to rub off on the buttons, the actual keyboard itself still clicks and functions as well as it did on day 1.

The Gorilla Glass on the phone has held up well, there's not a single scratch on my screen despite being dropped several times, but that much cannot be said about the silver framing of the screen and the keyboard/body. It's made out of some very thinly painted and very flimsy plastic which has many dings and dents in it. The plus side to this, is that the plastic of that framing is so malleable that it hasn't actually cracked open or anything it just dents up, loses it's paint and becomes coarse.

Lastly, the charger port and the camera. I never had the opportunity of using the ultra-super-duper-sub-micro HDMI port on the phone because I don't record too much video, as such it's a little dusty, the charger port however has held up the test of time elegantly. I've had phones where the charger port is the first thing to go. Sometimes it's just not soldered in well enough and after about 20 months of just plugging and unplugging the power cord, it literally just recedes back into the body of the phone, making the charging process a little laborious. I also never used the front facing camera because I'm not too big on the whole "selfies" trend, so one can only assume that the front-facing camera has held up the test of time immaculately. The rear-facing camera however is incredibly grainy. I don't know if I just didn't notice this when I first got it, or if it's been worsening over time but that camera is seriously grainy for a 8MP camera. I've recently gotten into the hobby of painting miniature war gaming miniatures, I like to take photos of all my completed work and after the first photo shoot with my phones 8MP camera which should have been sufficient to take some decent high-depth photos, I never did it again. I propped the phone up so it wouldn't move in the slightest, put it on a timer then stepped far away from it till the photo took and it was still so grainy that viewed at maximum resolution it was so shitty, it was embarrassing.

Now onto the software side of things. When I got the Droid 4, it was running Android 2.3.5, then shortly after it's release (we're talking like 7-8 months) ICS (Android 4.0) came out for the phone. I had my phone rooted since day one in order to install Titanium Backup and save myself some time getting my phone back to where my last one was at. The root privileges prevented my phone from being able to even install ICS. So, I never went down that road with my phone even though it was one of the chief things I wanted when I was looking at a replacement for my last phone. Then only like a month and a half after ICS came out, all of my friends with Droid 4s started calling me with a long slew of problems that didn't exist until after they updated to ICS. Things like overheating issues, keyboards failing, phones magically shutting off whenever they felt like it. Battery life being slashed in half, the works. So all in all, I think that ICS was a bust for this phone. They released the phone with the intent of it running ICS, but they took too long releasing it in the end and it caused too many problems for the phone.

Lastly for this review i did want to point out one small issue, in the last few weeks, my physical keyboard will very occasionally just magically stop working. I'll type half a text and then they keyboard decides it's done working for the day kind of thing. I usually just switch to the touch screen keyboard to finish what I'm doing, restart my phone, and it's problem solved.

Do any of you own a Droid 4, and if so, do you have anything else that I didn't encounter to add to this review?