Film making is an expensive business. Not only in terms of equipment, which immediately puts film making out of the reach of your average Joe, but also in terms of the basics, the tools you need to get the process started in the first place: write a script, draw the storyboards, put together a schedule.
Without the appropriate computer tools, these tasks can become laborious at best, and creatively crippling at worst. And these tools, until now, had been some of the most ridiculously expensive pieces of software, catering only for a well off elite.
However, help is at hand. Celtx (www.celtx.com) is an amazing new suite of tools designed to give first-time filmmakers a fighting chance against the big studios.
Thanks to this new suite of production tools, filmmakers no longer need to criminalise their production process by using illegal, pirated tools.
Celtx, an open-source program, offers a variety of different tools to help assemble all of your information to make your movie as efficiently as possible.
Scripting, storyboarding, scheduling and other production plan elements are all included in this easy-to-use software, which - thanks to its open source roots - is guaranteed to improve and refine itself over time as users provide feedback, to help in its refinement, whenever new problems occur.
Part of the appeal of the CeltX tools lies in the "Project Central", a website dedicated to users of the program.
Here you can discuss issues with other users and read through projects created by your peers. The tools are analysed, and tutorials guide you through any problems or difficulties.
The program's layout is great, linking your script and production tools so that you have a simple, effective interface with which to integrate all of your production components.
Your script links seamlessly with your storyboard, and your budget links with your script, so that every page can be analysed both in terms of visuals, cost and the resources required to make it happen, as well as the actors and crew necessary to get it made.
CeltX is a new approach to the production process which gives enormous power to young filmmakers to bring their projects together and get the most out of their ideas. This is a brilliant project management tool that can be applied to almost any creative field, giving you a great way to organise your ideas into a structure, and see the full potential of your story unfold as you build your project into a film you can actually make!
Go grab it, get down a little story, and see how very easy it is.
first published September 25, 2007 Edition 1 Cape Times, Techno Times. email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Perfect Accessory Dot Com from cbass cape on Vimeo.
I know this isn't strictly bigeyeddeer business, but I recently refound the perfect accessory, and thought id post it up for old times sake. Oh the memories, oh the fish, ho hum. Those were simpler times.
The arrival of the iPhone has introduced the world to multitouch technology, and meant that it is now no more than a finger's reach from we mere mortals. What is this amazing innovation?
Multitouch technology differs from touchscreens that have come before by allowing two-handed operation, and allows more than one person to use the same interface.
Jeff Han, consulting research scientist for New York University's Department of Computer Science, has been a pioneering force in the development of this new technology.
By using a sheet of acrylic which has been lit along the side, the team was able to register the dissipation of light when the surface of the acrylic was touched. In layman's terms, before being touched there was total internal reflection of the light - and none of it escaped.
However, touching the surface bounced the light out and this was then registered along sensors beneath the acrylic. These points became the points of contact and then it was a matter of developing the software that made sense of these points and put them all together.
Image courtesy of the guardian
There are now a number of companies using multitouch technology. Alongside Apple's new phone, Microsoft has entered the market with its Surface - a tabletop that responds to a variety of users.
This tool is also capable of wirelessly transmitting from cellphones and cameras, so that camera information and pictures appear on the surface as if by magic. Users can edit information by dragging their fingers between points.
Microsoft employee Andrew D Wilson developed TouchLight technology - a simultaneous projection and capturing device that allows two people to interact on the same display form on opposite sides of the world.
The grandest of Multitouch devices, though, is the HP Obscura - a giant wall which can be used to build projects, allowing a number of people to interact with the information they all need in a three-dimensional interactive environment, with a flick of the wrist.
As Multitouch technology gains momentum, the future looks set to offer a whole new world of interactivity. -
Cyborgs. Everyone is terrified of cyborgs. Wherever they crop up in popular fiction, people end up dead. So we have been cautious about even expressing interest in such technology. However, recent Chinese experiments show that we seem to be getting over our squeamishness … the time of the bionic pigeon is upon us.
The Chinese newspaper People's Daily Online reports that scientists in China have successfully implanted micro-electrodes into the brains of pigeons to control the birds' movement.
"Scientists with the Robot Engineering Technology Research Centre of east China's Shandong University of Science and Technology, led by Professor Su Xuecheng, say they implanted micro electrodes in the brain of a pigeon so they can command it to fly right or left or up or down.
"The implants stimulated different areas of the pigeon's brain according to signals sent by the scientists via computer, mirroring natural signals generated by the brain, and forcing the bird to comply with their commands."
While the uses of this technology are still a little ambiguous, the researchers believe that this is the first time that such technology has been used successfully with a pigeon.
In the United States, similar work on animals has been going on for many years.
In the '60s the CIA was working on a project known as Acoustic Kitty. This research fitted a cat with an implant to eavesdrop on conversations. However, as with so many things, outside influences grounded the project on its first outing - the kitty got run over.
The Americans have also been working on similar technology embedded in sharks so that they could be used for ultra-stealthy undersea surveillance. However, the results of these experiments are unknown because of the classified nature of the research.
Su conducted a similar successful experiment on mice in 2005.
But his experiments on pigeons are truly remarkable, making the bird fly in ways which they are unable to do naturally, such as straight up or down.
Maybe the wars of the future will be heralded not with a gunshot, but with the terrified cry: "The pigeons are coming!" - email@example.com
Seven years ago, long before the term "blogosphere" became part of the popular lexicon, Peter Cheales started his site Hellopeter.co.za
Unlike a simple blog, Cheales's site focused on interaction, creating a space in which customers and corporations could interact and criticisms could be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
While ordinary people could sign up for free, companies were required to pay a small fee so they could be counted as a "company who responds".
More than just a "nag" space, like "www.Hellkom.co.za", where disgruntled Telkom users can go to complain, Hellopeter's focus is on encouraging corporates to engage with their customers and solve problems.
The difference is important; Cheales's goal is to help companies improve their customer service and retain customers they could otherwise have lost through bad service.
Users log on to the site, where they are able to scroll through companies which respond or don't respond to the Hellopeter service.
Comments can be both good and bad, allowing companies to get a fair and unbiased view of how they are behaving.
Messages are then sent directly to the company and, following the company's response, the customers are encouraged to respond as to how their problem was solved and whether the solution was satisfactory.
The site was an amazing success. The initial trepidation with which companies approached the service was soon eclipsed by the benefits that came from its use - real-time, real world market research which would have previously cost them a fortune was now available instantly and proved itself as a space in which problems could be solved and lost customers retained.
Over time the service has improved further and niggling problems have been eradicated. Now, a series of verifications, checks and balances, swear-word filters, alongside live editors, make sure the site is as free and fair as possible.
Its strength lies in the customer base, which grows daily and from which come the thousands of comments daily that work to convey the feelings of the public to those in charge.
In an age where service delivery is a dirty word and companies and governments alike try their hardest to dupe the honest Joe, it is amazing that a site like HelloPeter thrives - bringing democracy and accountability into the corporate sphere, and teaching companies what they should have known all along - that the humble customer is always right. - firstname.lastname@example.org
Gaming takes on a Second LifeBy Gillian Armstrong
The rise of games such as Sims allowed computer gamers a new form of interaction – the virtual world where players live somewhat vicariously through the characters they manipulate. The next step in the virtual development? The Avatar, of course.
The term avatar in a virtual was first popularized in a 1992 novel by Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash. The literal translation of this Sanskrit word is “descent” and originates in Hindu theology to describe the bodily form of a god, but the word now commonly refers to any online character which relates to a human individual.
The virtual world of Second Life allows the player to create his/her own personal avatar to very specific characteristics. Players can choose everything from hair colour to occupation and can quite literally re-invent themselves. Other players then connect online and the avatars interact with each other within the virtual world, whether it be to date, to conduct business or even to enter the Swedish consulate. However, Second Life is not the only virtual world and others have sprung up all over the place. An example is The Church of Fools which allows users to log into the virtual world of worship, whisper to other parishioners (except during services) and pray. Users will be disppointed to hear that Church Wardens now have the power to “smite the wicked” and log them out of the virtual church.
It seems the avatar model is extending itself into gaming as well. Sim’s creator Will Wright and Microsoft’s XBox team head, J. Allard, are of the opinion that computer games of the future will incorporate far more input from the gamer himself. Spore, the newest Multiplatform “God game” to be released by Wright, allows the player to be any part of the gaming experience and does not limit him only to the role of the protagonist. Players develop their species from the cellular to the space phase and have control over the design of the planets they inhabit and the direction in which the game flows. The creations can then be uploaded to company, and are available for download by other players. According to Allard, the gaming industry is looking at developing a “Wikipedia model” or, in other words, an open-source model in the field of game development. This open-ended gameplay policy will dramatically affect the nature of gaming and transfer a greater balance of power to the side of the individual.
Bots give Oldies a Helping Hand
By Sarah Jane Scott
It is common knowledge that Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, a negative birth rate and a blossoming population of short, grey-haired people. This happens to be a key driver in Japans enormously lucrative robotic industry, which is churning out various robots called ‘care technology’.
Research has shown that elderly people need technology that can help them in their day-to-day lives, instead of pet robots like the Sony AIBO robotic dog. Last year, according to industry figures, the ‘care technology’ market was worth some $1.08 billion.
With a breakdown of family ties, senior citizens in Japan are not receiving traditional care provided by children and grandchildren, and this is where ‘care technology’ steps in.
Recently, the ‘power assist suit’ was demonstrated by Hiroi Tsukui from Kanagawa Institute of Technology. The suit is targeted at nursing homes and hospitals and, similar to the Hybrid Assistive Limb ‘The Hal’ created by Yoshiyuki Sankai, the suit makes it easier for caregivers to lift elderly people in and out of beds and wheelchairs.
The suits take 10 minutes to put on, weighs thirty kilos and bears a remarkable resemblance to Robocop. Once they are on, because of air pumped in to the suit, it does not feel heavier then a regular backpack and the person wearing it can pick up anything as heavy as 100 kilos.
Tokyo University of Science is currently developing this ‘robot suit’ concept into a ‘muscle suit’ which can be worn by the elderly themselves. The ‘muscle suit’ has artificial muscles made of elastic rubber and nylon and air pumps for arms. Powered by air pressure actuators the prototype suit looks like an oversized life jacket and is designed to give old people control over their own lives instead of relying on caregivers or their children. Associate professor at the university, Hiroshi Kobayashi, has however admitted that the suit, which weighs four kilos, still needs improvement before it is safe and accessible to elderly people.
Numerous other products have been designed to brighten up senior citizens so called ‘golden years’.
A wheelchair designed by TAO Aicle from Fujitsu Ltd. and Aisin Seiki Co. is able to travel to a preset destination automatically, using sensors to avoid obstacles and to stop at red lights.
Toyota Motor Corp.’s Welcab series owns the slogan ‘A car that’s more patient than your daughter’. Various easy-entry cars have been designed for people who have difficulty walking or are wheelchair bound.
Secom Co.’s ‘My Spoon’ feeding robot enables granny’s and grandpa’s to be electronically fed by a spoon and fork-fitted swiveling arm.
‘It’s all about empowering people to help themselves,’ developer Shigehisa Kobayashi, said. The robots are priced at $3.500 and over 300 have already been sold. ‘My Spoon’ is controlled by a joystick which can be operated by a person’s chin. At a home care and rehabilitation convention in Tokyo last week, Kobayashi demonstrated how easy it is to manoeuvre the electronic arm towards a piece of tofu, break a bite-size piece with the fork, and to return to a position in front of the mouth.
It is estimated that by 2050 nearly half of Japans population will be over the age of 65.
(Satirical Disclaimer) A recent demonstration of Fujatsu’s latest ‘care robot’ this week, in Tokyo, spurred a spate of concerns. Developed by Hiroi Nagasawa, the ‘wipe grannies bum’ robot is powered by water and uses air pressure to pivot a wheel attached to an electronic arm. Tskuka Ndwana, a member of the project, demonstrated how safe and uncomplicated the robot is to use. ‘It doesn’t feel like a robot’ he said ‘this feels so comfortable,bigeyeddeer and very human.’
Bionic Made Better
Engineers develop a mind-controlled prosthetic arm dexterous enough to play piano
by Marc Dey
Learning to live without a limb is an extremely daunting challenge. Many of us take the awesome tools that are our arms for granted, but without them even the most mundane tasks become struggle. For the longest time artificial limbs have served little purpose, other then astecticly faking an arm. However now there is an exciting alternative to the old prostectics: a bionic arm.
Prompted by the fact that hundreds of US veterans of the Iraq war have lost a limb, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, has launched a $55-million project. The project consisted of a number prosthetics experts whose goal was to create a thought-controlled bionic arm that duplicates the functions of a natural limb.
These experts first developed Proto 1, which could bend at the elbow, rotate its wrist and shoulder, and open and close its fingers. Compared to most other prosthetics this was a huge leap forward.
The team has just finished Proto 2, a thought-controlled mechanical arm, complete with a hand and articulated fingers, that can perform 25 joint motions. The shoulder and wrist are capable of roll, pitch and yaw, the elbow can flex, and the fingers and thumbs bend at each knuckle. Each joint brings together two lightweight artificial bones made of carbon fiber and aluminum alloys.This type of dexterity closely resembles that of a real arm, which can make 30 motions. A person wearing a Proto 2 has enough dexterity that they could conceivably play the piano.
The bionic arm works with injectible myoelectric sensors (IMES) that detect muscle activity and wirelessly transmit commands to the prosthetic arm. A wire coil wrapped over the shoulder supplies wireless power to the implants and relays signals to computers in the arm that decipher the commands and tell the arm to move. The team eventually plan to implant electrodes directly on the nerves, or in the brain itself, to achieve more natural neural control.
Obviously a robotic device would need some form of power source, however many of our current sources would be rather impracticle and heavy. Researchers are experimenting with a hydrogen-peroxide pneumatic system to replace bulky, slow electric motors. The hydrogen peroxide reacts with an iridium catalyst to drive the arm's movements. The wearer would have to install a fresh hydrogen-peroxide canister each morning.
The bionic arm is not ready yeat and the team still have some work to do. The next steps are to shrink the battery, develop more-efficient motors, and refine the bulky electrodes used to read electrical signals in muscles. The final version of the hand will apparently be able to sense pressure, temperature and differences in the surfaces of objects.
If all goes well, by 2009, the agency will petition the Food and Drug Administration to put the arm through clinical trials.
Will E.T. be phoning us back?
The search for extraterristrial existence is one that has fascinated humans for years. Television programs like The Outer Limits, The X-Files and The Twilight Zone capitalised on the human desire to disocver and embrace the unexplained phenomena which ply our universe.
Paul G Allen, a founder member of Microsoft and the major investor in the Allen Astonomy Telescope, is making it cheap and possible for the search to continue. The Allen telescope consists of 350 antennae, each of which are about 20 feet in diameter. The radio antennae are then combined as if they were all one dish, and will allow the scientists to cost-effectively and efficiently monitor and map huge areas of the galaxy.
Early predictions envision that the telescope should be able to recieve information from almost 500 light years away and include almost a million stars. Considering there are around 200 billion stars in the galaxy, and a large number of them have planets, estimates as to the number of intelligent civilizations range from one (or in my discouraged view of humanity, none) into millions. It is hoped that this will greatly increase the potential to search for answers to the question of extraterristial life, and is the first telescope of its kind specifically designed for extraterristrial quest.
The idea for the dish was formulated some 12 years ago at the Radio Astonomy Laboratory at the University of California. It uses inexpensive satellite dish technology and combines elements of digital signal processing and radio astonomy. Rather than merely being a receptor for alien communication, the telescope will also provide invaluable research possibilities in the field of satellite transmission and digital communication. Although only 42 of the antennae are in operation today, even the partial operation of the telescope is of ground-breaking technology.
Dr Blitz, who is the director of the laboratory, claims that the telescope is already as fast and far more inexpensive to run than many other of the existing telescopes. Because of the speed that the various antennae provide information, it will be possible to recieve the radio waves created when black holes collide, and the vast range of space that the antennae can search will allow researchers to study the areas of gas in the galaxy devoid of stars (or ‘dark galaxies’).
It may yet be possible to determine intelligent life somewhere in the galaxy...
Bridging the Digital Divide
By Lucy Heavens
Access to technology is very limited for many people in this land of many tongues, and to become computer literate is no easy task for speakers of minority languages. Hope comes in the form of Translate.org, a remarkable non-profit organisation that produces Free and Open Source software in the country’s eleven official languages. They are the also the developers of Pootle, an online tool for the translation of South African languages.
Translate.org are funded by, amongst others, the Shuttleworth Foundation, and many of the programmes provided on the translate.org website are those used in the Open Source Ubuntu operating system created by Mark Shuttleworth.
This includes the Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird, and the OpenOffice suite - complete with word processor and programmes for spreadsheets, multimedia presentations and drawing. All free to download in your South African language of choice.
Translate.org is actively involved in spreading awareness of the importance of mother tongue in learning and technology. It has been well established that when a child begins learning in his or her first language, that child is more likely to succeed academically, and is better able to learn additional languages. Studies have shown that learning in one’s mother tongue ensures a better fundamental understanding of the subject than those who learnt it in a second language.
South Africa has been slow to implement the country’s constitutionally enshrined policies of mother tongue education, yet for children to be enabled to become computer literate in their mother tongue is to significantly increase their chances in life.
Translate.org’s other valuable products for learning and work are the freely downloadable DejaVu font, and the South African keyboard, on sale for R150. Many South African languages, when written, include a host of symbols and icons that are unique in the world. This means that many languages cannot be correctly typed on a computer with regular fonts and keyboards. Translate.org's keyboard means any language from Venda to Afrikaans can, for the first time, be accurately typed.
The Afrikaans spell checker is another popular product. Spell checkers in all South African languages can be downloaded, but are not yet actively promoted, as they are not fully functioning. Nguni languages are highly conjunctive, with many words linking to create one word. With all the possible permutations, it becomes exceptionally difficult to create full word lists. They rely on volunteer translators to continually expand and enrich their services.
Recently Translate.org were recipients of the prestigious African ICT Achiever Award for "Top civil society/NGO to bridge the digital divide in Africa" for their work in breaking down the language barrier.