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The State of The Optical

I feel like I haven’t been posting much here about my podcast, The Optical, aside from the link in the header and footer, but believe me, I’ve been hammering away at it.

Just last week, I launched a new website for the podcast that I’ve been stumbling through learning Django to produce. It’s not 100% there yet, but the front page is awesome, and the episode pages are 90% there. I’m writing this all myself instead of using an existing podcasting package because it’s leading up to something I’m calling the “Cinedex”, which will be an index of not only the print edition of Cinefex magazine, but also things covered on the podcast, and the history of VFX in general. I have big plans, and I’m chipping away at the Big List of Website Stuff slowly but surely.

I’ve also just been accepted to SoundCloud’s beta podcasting program, and posted all of the podcast episodes there, which makes it super easy to embed them everywhere (as you’ll see below).

In addition to all of that, I’ve been able to interview some fascinating people, and on the latest episode, I got to speak with a personal hero and VFX legend, Douglas Trumbull. We discussed a ton of history, and we’re leading up to Part 2, where he’ll talk more about his love for immersive cinema and his new process, Magi, which allows for recording and presentation of films in 3D at 4K resolution, at 120 frames per second. I got to see the Magi projection in person at the Seattle Cinerama Sci-Fi Film Festival back in May, and it’s crazy impressive, almost like looking through a giant window.

Please give the podcast a listen. I’m super proud of the work we’re doing, and while there’s room for improvement, I think it’s going to grow into something big. You can easily subscribe via iTunes on your computer, iPhone, or Pad, or follow the podcast on Soundcloud. Let me know what you think!

How to stop Netflix Auto-play

Netflix started auto-playing TV shows on the iPad last year — if you have episodes left in the series, it would cut out about 30 seconds early from the end credits of your show, and jump to start playing the next episode (often also skipping the “previouslies” at the start of the next episode, which can be helpful). With the most recent update of the AppleTV firmware, this autoplay behavior came to the big screen as well.

Now, this completely drives me nuts. I’m the kind of person who watches the movie credits all the way to the end, because that’s how I respect the hard work of the people who created the film. Plus, I get to hear the theme music, and for a guy whose CD collection was once half comprised of movie scores and soundtracks, that’s an important part of the experience. Great TV shows, for me, really aren’t much different.

I realize it’s probably a matter of “this is what most people want”, but I like the credits. I like the music. I like the little kids shouting “bad robot!” I also like deciding whether I play the next episode, or whether I really ought to go to bed because I actually have work to do in the morning.

Yes, you can swipe down on the iPad to keep watching to the end, and you can use the AppleTV remote to cancel out of this, but remembering to leap into action in the five seconds it gives me every time I watch an episode isn’t my idea of fun.

Thankfully, as I discovered last night, Neflix finally did give us an opt-out back in late January. Judging by the response I got on Twitter this morning, a lot of other people had been waiting for the same solution. Here it is:

To disable Post-Play’s autoplay feature on a Netflix profile, navigate to Your Account, click Playback Settings, then uncheck the option to Play next episode automatically. Other Post-Play features will still be enabled — this setting simply turns off automatic playback of the next episode.

So, on the Netflix website, go to Your Account:


Click “Playback Settings”:


And uncheck the option to “Play next episode automatically”:


I did this last night, and once I had, both the AppleTV and the iPad immediately obeyed the settings. The iPad still shrinks the video and shows you the thumbnail for the next episode, but at least it plays all the way through and doesn’t auto-play the next one.

The Optical

I find it hard to believe than anyone who follows me here doesn’t also follow me on Twitter or Facebook or somesuch, so you’ve probably already heard way too much about this, but just in case…

I’ve been blogging at a Tumblr site called The Optical for the last three months or so, posting cool movie-related items every day: mostly behind-the-scenes stuff, but also videos, photos, art, and links to interesting movie articles.

Just a couple of days ago, I launched The Optical podcast, which has been 9 months in the making. In the monthly podcast, we’re revisiting the very first issues of Cinefex magazine, talking about the movies and topics they covered 30+ years ago, one issue per episode. We talk to people involved in the films, people who make movies, and people who love movies, and try to have a fun time doing it.

In our premiere episode, we talk about Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Alien with my good friends AAl and Matt from the Post Atomic Horror podcast, chat with Daren Dochterman, VFX Supervisor on Star Trek: The Motion Picture — Director’s Edition, I admit my 2001 shame, and we ask: just what is an “optical,” anyway?

If revisiting old effects movies from the ’80s sounds like a cool idea to you, I hope that you’ll join us on the journey and give the podcast a listen.

The Optical Podcast Episode 001 Cover Art

An Open Letter to Final Cut Pro X

Dear Apple,

I just started a new preditor job, and since FCP 7 is never coming back (as long as I tried to cling to it), I had to decide whether to go with FCPX or Premiere CC. Premiere CC seems closer to what I want in an editor, but since it also crashes like crazy, I’ve decided to give you guys the benefit of the doubt and have been using FCPX for the past 8 weeks.

I have a few complaints.

The magnetic timeline, I am slowly getting used to. I realize you’re trying to enable a new editing paradigm here, and I’m trying to learn your ways. However, your ways seem to make it harder than it used to be to get done some of the things I need to do. Which was my complaint the last time I tried it six months ago, and again a year before that — but I’m really trying this time, I swear that I am.

I grant that I haven’t used it very long, and perhaps I’m just missing the magic button that gives me some of the functionality I’m craving below, but in your next version of FCPX, I implore you to consider the following:

  • Timecode. I am a technical editor. I have clocks to meet. I want to know not just how much I selected, but what the start and end timecodes are. I have to replace part of a graphic that starts at an exact timecode. How to I tell what frame I’m on in the source clips I can edit in on the right frame in the timeline? I can’t. I have to eye-match the new clip, which costs me precious time, and is totally unnecessary in this day and age of computers that have been able to keep track of video timecode for nearly two decades. Please give me back my timecode overlays in the viewer, while you’re at it.
  • A source viewer. I realize you’re trying to save space by only giving me one viewer, but I really want to be able to compare what I’m looking at in the source to the place I’m going to insert it in the sequence. I want to set in and out points. I want to match timecodes. This iMovie filmstrip viewer thing feels vague and imprecise, and maybe it would be okay if I were editing a motion picture of indeterminate length, but I want numbers and precision.
  • Frame match backs that go both ways. I want to match back to a frame in the source, maybe add a marker (that ripples back into the sequence), and match frame from the source back into my timeline.
  • A second-screen viewer window that’s resizable and movable. I have two monitors, and my second one is the one I use for my viewer. There appears to be no way to resize the window that surrounds the viewer area, so I can have other things open in that monitor — like say, a chat window with the client, or a copy of the script. I also have that monitor set up in portrait mode, which I grant is unusual, but I really don’t need giant panels of dark gray above and below the actual viewer portion of the window. Let me use my monitor the way that I want — you don’t need to take over the entire thing. If I wanted that, I would pop FCPX into full-screen mode. Which I don’t, because then my second monitor just turns into a giant useless swatch of dark grey linen.

Final Cut Pro, I used to love you. Please let me love you again.

Mark Boszko

Update 2013-10-17: I have been told that there is now a source viewer window, but it turns out it’s not quite what I’m looking for. It’s called the Event Viewer, and it gives me almost no more information about the source clip than the single viewer did before. The only thing it really adds is the ability to see source and edit side-by-side. Which, I admit, is a tiny bit of help, but if I can’t see timecodes side-by-side as well, it’s not terribly useful. Plus, when I use it on my second monitor, it splits my already-narrow vertical monitor in half, so I have two tiny viewer images and vast swaths of dark gray above and below. There doesn’t seem to be any way for me to resize or rearrange these display segments.

Super 8

The missus and I got to see Super 8 on Thursday morning at a sparsely-attended “secret sneak preview” that they had promoted only through Twitter. It’s the first time I think I’ve seen a 4K projection locally, and let me tell you — the entire thing was amazingly clean and detailed. But not in a bad, glossy, Star Wars prequels sort of way. No, this thing felt like film, if film could ever be so stable. Amazing picture.

Anyway, as for the film itself — highly recommended. Not just for the early-Spielberg feel (there is a definite Close Encounters/ET/Goonies vibe to it, not to mention several subtly direct references — check out the kids at the dinner table), but for the great story with the kids making a Super 8 movie for a local film festival; it totally reminded me of my experiences making short films as a kid. Haven’t seen a movie like this that made me fall in love with it in the first 15 minutes in a very long time.

Best to go see it without spoiling it with trailers or reviews, if you can. Watch it clean.

Maybe the last reel isn’t perfect, but who cares? It’s got so much great stuff going for it (pitch-perfect location, great performances, especially from the kids), that I think it can be forgiven an overused trope here or there. After all, it is a nostalgic film at its heart.

Attack of the Giant Amazon!

This is the final version of a spec spot that we produced for the 2009 “Your Amazon Ad Contest”, and submitted on 28 July 2009. Sadly we did not make the final five, but I encourage you to go vote on the ones that did. (The contest has since long ended.)

The version is embedded above, and it has also been posted to . Please feel free to share it far and wide.

Enormous thanks to the entire cast and crew:

  • Mark Boszko: Writer, Director, Co-Producer, Director of Photography, Grip, Background Actor (“Man Standing Agape”, “Foil Man”), Editor, VFX Artist, Colorist
  • Doug Koztoski: Co-writer, Co-Producer, 2nd Unit DoP, Grip, Background Actor (“Running Man #1, #3 & #4”, “Director”)
  • Sarah Thomason: Actor (“Amazon Woman”), Grip
  • Carlos Hip: Cantonese Translator, Actor (“Executive Producer”), Grip
  • Marivic Tagala: Actor (“EP’s Assistant”)
  • Jose Vazquez: Background Actor (“Boom Operator’), Boom Operator, Grip, VFX Assistant
  • Rob Rhyne: Background Actor (“Actor with Kindle”), Grip
  • David Brown: Background Actor (“Running Man #2”)

Thanks also to Tom Schmidt for his VFX critiques, and to Buzz Andersen for his “Buzzhelm Scream” which we used for the man running from his car.