flicks

Limit Handbrake CPU usage under Windows

I’ve recently transitioned to using a PC for all of my media transcoding and hosting Plex, so I can keep my Macs unburdened and ready for real work. The only thing is — when Handbrake is compressing something, it pegs all of my CPU cores at 100%, leaving not much left for Plex Media Server to use.

I found a great solution on this page at Windows Loop. I’ll let you go there for all of the details, but I’ll post an abbreviated version here, just in case that site disappears someday:

Lower Priority

Go to Handbrake > Tools > Preferences > Advanced, and set Priority Level to Below Normal or Low. I chose Low.

You can also do this from Task Manager: In the Details tab, right-click on Handbrake.exe and Set Priority.

I also set Plex Media Server to High priority here, for good measure.

CPU Affinity

From Task Manager, when you right-click, one of the choices is Set Affinity. This will allow you to set which CPU cores the app is allowed to run on. I unchecked cores 0 and 1, so on my processor, it still has access to the six other cores.

I find this lets the system stay responsive, and hope that this will make it able to serve Plex media without any trouble, even while I’m transcoding media.

Looking for Work

For the first time in nearly seven years, I am now unemployed. Yesterday, along with several other people, I was laid off from my job at The Omni Group, and I’m now looking for new work. UPDATE: Here is a link to my resume PDF and my complete CV.

First of all, thank you to all of my friends and colleagues at Omni for being one of the best groups of people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. I’ll be forever grateful that taking a job at Omni is what got me out to the West Coast, and to the lovely city of Seattle. I learned a lot there, and they believed in my abilities enough to give me some truly interesting challenges, including some professional development that was rather tangential to my scope of video production, in the interest of seeing it enrich my work in unexpected ways.

I won’t go into what happened at Omni in much detail (if you’re interested, my fellow layoff-ee Brent Simmons has more to say about that on his blog). Suffice it to say that with a spouse who is an essential employee at a bakery, I never suspected that an economic cascade leading to this layoff would be the way that the COVID-19 pandemic affected our family. Omni are doing everything they can to make this necessity a little less harsh, and I’m certain they never would have laid people off if it weren’t truly necessary for the company’s survival. I wish them the best, and hope that they come out of this stronger than ever.

But still, I am out of work. Do you have work? Hire me!

People probably know me best for my video production work — please see the output of my last seven years in The Omni Group’s video archives — but I have also done a lot of related development work, and would love to push my career in that direction. Here’s a quick list of some relevant skills:

  • My biggest area of experience: video production, post, editing, and motion graphics. 24 years and counting.
  • I’ve produced two long-running podcasts, The Optical, which I also host, and The Omni Show.
  • For the last 13 or so years, I’ve been working on my programming skillset.
    • I write scripts to automate my video production workflows in Python and JavaScript/ExtendScript
    • I’ve built websites with a Django back end, and I have a working knowledge of JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and REST APIs
    • Just about a month ago, I took a Swift + iOS Development Bootcamp at Big Nerd Ranch, so I’m continuing to refresh my skills
    • I developed and published an app guide to Star Trek for the iPhone, for The Post Atomic Horror Podcast (no longer in the App Store)
    • I was a founding member of NSCoderNightDC, collaboratively learning Objective-C, Mac, and iOS development, and am a member of Xcoders in Seattle, keeping in touch with the local community of Mac and iOS developers
    • I’m currently in the process of learning Unity and C#, so that I can build a virtual map of Scarecrow Video, the largest publicly-accessible film archive in the world, where I volunteer on a regular basis. I suppose Unity is useful for other things too.
    • For my own themed tiki bar space, I’ve become very familiar with Raspberry Pi and Arduino programming, to control lights, smoke, and (in progress) animatronics for an immersive themed experience.

Ashy Slashy

I tend not to like slasher movies. It saddens me to see humans attacking humans, usually for no good reason. I see that enough in real life. I’d much rather see humans coming together to defeat a common foe, like a monster or a demon, or a ghost. Anything supernatural, really. That’s so much more… uplifting.

That said, I do like a few. Here they are.

  1. Scream
  2. Halloween
  3. Child’s Play
  4. Scream 3
  5. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

from my Letterboxd

The Future Tornadoes Want: Twister

Jo and Bill approach an F5 twister in Jo’s truck.

When Jan de Bont released Twister in May of 1996, he probably thought he was being sneaky. He probably didn’t expect anyone to figure out that he’d made a horror film in which the monster represents the death of heteronormativity in the American nuclear family structure. He probably thought he got away with it. Well, I’ve got bad news for you, Jan…

Twister is one of my all-time favourite comfort food disaster movies, and I absolutely love Sarah Gailey’s take on it.

Source: The Future Tornadoes Want: Twister

What do I like about horror?

I’ve been doing a sort of movie scavenger hunt the past month called HoopTober, which has several “quick easy” rules; different categories and directors and such that you have to find horror films to fit into. The event is named after Tobe Hooper, probably most well known as director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but also the nominal director of Poltergeist, and the director of one of my (non-)guilty pleasures, Lifeforce, a.k.a. “Space Vampires.”

As I’ve made my way through the month of horror movies, I’ve been disappointed to find myself enjoying far fewer movies than I didn’t. So, I’ve been trying to sort out what it is that I like about horror. I feel like most of the stuff is a hyphenate. Comedy-horror, sci-fi-horror, adventure-horror (Is that a thing? I think it is.). Most of the good stuff has to have a sense of humor, even if it’s not a comedy, per se. Monsters are great. Supernatural stuff is pretty good. But I don’t like slashers, people hurting each other, hunting people, torture porn.

I like stories that make sense, that have a solid internal logic. This is kinda like why I don’t like much of fantasy, where it likes to change its rules in mid-stream, because “magic”. Okay fine, magic works in your world, but it still has to have rules, right? Let’s set some rules at the outset and stick with them. Same for any supernatural horror. You can’t just give your monster (or protagonist) crazy new powers in the middle of the film without making me feel like they’ve earned it.

Out of my ★★★★★ rated horror films (there’s only 22 of them), what do I like? Let me try to figure this out.

Ghost Stories

  • The Conjuring 2 is a straight up old fashioned ghost story and it scared the bejesus out of me, but even then it has a sense of humor, if a very subtle one.
  • What Lies Beneath surprised me at the time with Harrison Ford playing against type, and I just like Zemeckis’ aesthetic in general. I might not rate it as high these days, and Crimson Peak is climbing up my list, so that’s probably a good replacement. Either film is a ghost story that is beautiful and surprising; even touching.
  • The Devil’s Backbone is another GDT ghost story, complex and surprising and touching. Sympathy for the monsters is a big thing in my horror love.

Vampire

  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one where I’m just drawn in by the beauty of it. Definitely a recurring factor.
  • Let the Right One In is yet again beautiful, and one where you’re made to have sympathy for the monsters.

Other Supernatural / Demon / Monsters

  • The Mill at Calder’s End is a short film, made with intricate and beautiful puppets. It feels like a Poe short story, and maybe the historical drama aspect of it draws me in.
  • The Descent is almost a slasher, but the creatures in the cave aren’t really human so it feels more ok?
  • Jaws is a monster alright, but it’s getting to know the characters in the town, and more so, the characters in the boat, that make it such an incredible watch.

Comedy-Horror

Most of these are monsters of some sort, but the comedy outshines the actual horror aspect of the film. If I can laugh at the monsters, or along with the protagonists, I’m usually on board.

  • The Cabin in the Woods
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Gremlins
  • Deep Rising
  • Tremors
  • Slither
  • Army of Darkness

Sci-Fi-Horror

  • Alien is probably the first serious horror I ever saw, and getting to know the characters is again the thing that completely sells the concept here, even if they do get picked off one by one. Something that so many horror movies skip is getting you invested in the people that they’re going to off later in the film. If I don’t care about the people, I’m not going to care about what happens to them.
  • Aliens is really a military film with sci-fi and horror aspects, but once again, it’s the characters that sell everything.
  • The Thing (1982) is one where I feel like I don’t get to know the individual characters especially well, but the sci-fi concept is so good, and gives so many opportunities for inventive moments of suspense and body horror that I’d never imagined before, that it really takes a lot to top this for me.

I don’t know, what is this?

  • 28 Days Later is a movie that apparently I need to re-watch, because even thought I gave it five stars, I don’t remember hardly anything about it.

Slashers

  • Psycho is the only slasher on my list. I often feel like the reason I watch horror is to get the chance for humans to come together and defeat an “other,” and feel some sense of catharsis at the end. (This may not actually be true — please see every other note for films in this list.) Pitting human against human in a film just makes me feel worse about the whole human race. Somehow, Psycho is an exception, again, mainly because we get such a good chance to know the characters, and it’s not just a bunch of people we don’t care about getting offed one-by-one for no discernible reason (hello, Friday the 13th).

So, looking back at these notes about why I liked each one, it seems like the real reason is they’re well-made films that I would like if they were any other genre. Good characters, beautiful sets and costumes, deep stories with sympathetic villains. It seems like a lot of horror fans forgive a lot in a flick if it has a good dash of gore or something else salacious, but I guess I am not so forgiving.

Comparison of Buffy original and widened HD looks.

Buffy’s HD Remaster Woes

This post on Facebook shows in great detail the disappointing issues with the new HD remaster of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for Pivot TV, complete with side-by-side comparisons and video links. (All of the side-by-sides here on the blog are taken from that Facebook article. Thanks, mystery author!)

The questionable 16:9 cropping (or opening the frame up to see crew members and lighting rigs, as above) is bad enough, but the liberties they’re taking with Buffy’s HD color grades are ruining the aesthetic of the show.

Buffy has always been one of the darkest shows (in terms of luma levels) I’ve ever seen on TV. While I understand tiny tweaks to take advantage of the full color information and resolution of the new film scans (and the vast amount of information a Blu-ray can hold vs. the original Betacam master tapes1), brightening every dark scene makes it akin to going through a haunted house with the harsh fluorescents on overhead the entire time — It actually makes it feel more like a cheap soap opera. (And yes, at times Buffy is a soap opera, but at least it was a moody and atmospheric soap opera!)

The new effects aren’t terrible, and I can’t blame them for replacing those, assuming the effects were only ever finished at SD resolution to begin with — the same thing that had to happen for Star Trek: The Next Generation, when they remastered for HD. Kind of weird that the vampire dustings look more like smoke now, though:

I’m not usually one to complain, “you’re ruining it!,” even about a beloved film or series like this, but it’s terribly sad to see Buffy being treated like this for the HD remaster. I hope the producers take a hint from the TNG Blu-rays and reassess their decision not to remaster the show in the 4:3 ratio as Joss Whedon and his crews originally intended. That Facebook post seems to hope that this is a “rough draft,” and that these issues will be corrected for an assumed eventual Blu-ray release, but I fear once these episodes are done, no one’s going to spend the money or take the time to do them yet again. Still, since only seasons 1 and 2 seems to have been done so far, fingers still crossed for season 3 and beyond!


  1. I’d assume it was Betacam SP, given the time in which it was made. Later seasons might have been DigiBeta — or even from the start, if Fox was very forward-thinking. However, from personal experience with the formats, and seeing the very soft resolution on the DVDs, I’m going to assume BetaSP for now.