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Pete’s Picks: Top 5 War Films

Peter Ferguson Swarr


1. The Thin Red Line
It’s been said that any war film inevitably ends up making warfare look exciting, but Terrence Malick’s poetic, elliptical examination of the Guadalcanal campaign makes it look more like a spiritual crisis than a thrill ride. Released the same year as ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ Malick’s Altman-esque tale floats between characters and brushes up against big ideas with all of the visceral intensity of a cloud crossing paths with the sun, coating the sporadic action scenes with navel-gazing voice-overs and frequently cutting away to the flora and fauna surrounding the invading humans like a defiled paradise. Anyone looking for another ‘Rambo’ flick will be sorely disappointed, but for artistic, contemplative portraits of combat, this one’s hard to beat.


2. Paths of Glory
‘Full Metal Jacket’ may be the quotable one, but Stanley Kubrick’s other, less popular war film cuts deeper with its unflinching examination of corruption and scapegoating in WWI. Though it contains several well-executed battle scenes, Kirk Douglas provides the real fireworks as a Colonel trying desperately to defend soldiers court martialed for cowardice after his inhumane superiors order a suicide attack on an unreachable enemy position. Douglas’ hard-as-nails performance, as well as the core theme of innocents paying for their superior’s arrogant power plays, lends the film a timeless quality, so much so that producer David Simon cited it as an inspiration for ‘The Wire’ nearly 50 years after it premiered.


3. Saving Private Ryan
The big one. Like ‘Schindler’s List,’ it’s become more than a movie and become something of a sacred rite of cultural passage. As a work of art though, its battle scenes stand as the most harrowing ever committed to celluloid and its performances capture the simple humanity of ordinary men caught up in the madness and chaos of war. Though no war film can truly embody the experience of war, this one may just embody the war film genre with its mix of shamelessly-uplifting humanism and gritty, no-holds-barred realism.


4. Enemy at the Gates
An unfortunate side effect of getting most of your WWII history lessons from Hollywood is that you fail to realize its true scope. To put it more bluntly, you probably see America as the loner cop with flawless aim and everyone else as the reluctant partner who exists to provide covering fire and maybe quip a one-liner once in a while. Thankfully, this European-American movie about a sniper fighting in the Battle of Stalingrad boasts Hollywood-caliber production values and an all-star cast that includes Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins and Ed Harris. Though the love triangle story may feel clichéd, the epic battle scenes and tense sniper duels will have even the most jaded xenophobe rooting for the Russian.


5. Inglorious Basterds
Where most WWII films at least put up a façade of somberness, Quentin Tarantino’s rollicking shoot-em-up treats the largest conflict in human history like a nihilistic playground ripe for explosions, verbal acrobatics and humor as black as a well-polished jackboot. Beneath the crowd-pleasing action however, Tarantino slyly inverts or skews nearly every trope that’s become ingrained in the war film genre, from the ‘Helpless Jew’ to the ‘Nazi Brute’ to the ‘Honorable American GI.’ By the time the unhinged, realism-obliterating ending rolls around, he’s managed to both mercilessly pillory and completely re-conceptualize what might just be the quintessential American genre outside of the Western. To some, it might look like sacrilege, but for plenty of cinephiles, it felt like a mighty liberation after years of a ‘Band of Brothers’-inspired aversion to irony.

HBO Go to go solo

Peter Ferguson Swarr


Recently, HBO made millions of cash-strapped ‘Game of Thrones’ fans’ dreams come true and announced that, yes, next year you’ll finally be able to subscribe to its streaming service, HBO Go, without shelling out for a cable package that includes Outdoor Channel, IndiePlex and Showtime Extreme. Of course, many of those same cash-strapped fans will no doubt just continue to download ‘GoT’ off torrent sites (it stands as the most pirated show in internet history), but even so, the message to programmers remains clear: if you want people to watch your shows, put them online.

Of course, this is likely news to no one except maybe the Cable Powers-That-Be. Amazon, Hulu and Netflix already hold large stakes in the still-emerging streaming market and last year cable lost 166,000 subscribers according to ‘The Atlantic,’ marking the first annual decline ever. As far as portentous omens go, this one looks fairly biblical and makes the fact that 80% of Americans have an internet connection in their home look like a godsend. Indeed, HBO chief executive Richard Plepler admitted that broadening their audience base played a large role in their decision to offer HBO Go as a standalone product, saying “There are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them.”

As HBO moves into the streaming game, comparisons with top-dog Netflix will inevitably be made, despite the inherent differences in their services. Where Netflix serves up a seemingly-infinite smorgasbord of content in the hopes that anyone from age 3 to 103 will find something they like, HBO targets the ‘savvy adult’ demographic and its original programming enjoys a Black Label-esque level of cultural prestige thanks to a decade-and-a-half of producing a murderer’s row of hits like ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Entourage,’ ‘Six Feet Under,’ ‘Deadwood’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ Even if it only offers its original shows on the new HBO Go, the sign-up numbers will go through the roof. Following Netflix’s lead and keeping those numbers growing however, may prove more elusive. While HBO’s back catalog ensures a healthy subscription rate, what will happen once everyone’s binged through the last episode of ‘John From Cincinnati’?

At the end of the day, the numbers will probably prevent HBO Go 2.0 from matching Netflix’s 50 million subscribers. Netflix boasts thousands of movies, while HBO Go features barely 100. HBO could make more movies available, but at the end of the day it will still be, at least for now, a premium cable channel dipping its toes into the streaming market. Still, the question must be asked: Could HBO Go one day become HBO Period.

The Battle of Video Hosting

Derek Lau

As hard to believe as it may be, there are plenty of video hosting sites out there besides YouTube. You may have heard of some, like Vimeo and Sprout, but assumed they were just YouTube clones with similar setups and mechanics. Well, the truth is that each video hosting site has unique features and finding the one that’s right for you can be a great boon to your business.


Vimeo, the most popular YouTube alternative, has built a reputation as an outlet for serious creative work, sort of a boutique approach to YouTube’s strip mall approach. Unlike YouTube, it charges for a premium account. For $199 a year however, a Vimeo Pro account allows you to access analytics programs, disregard time limits and upload videos in HD. Most impressively, Pro accounts allow you to collect ‘tips’ of up to $500 from your viewers via PayPal.


For a business, analyzing video views and encouraging post-video action are key and several hosting sites have made a point of maximizing options in these areas. Sprout Video allows you to pinpoint a viewer’s general location and examine how much of the video they watched, as well as add email links and call-to-action buttons. Wistia also allows you to track viewer activities, but takes the system a step further and lets you quantify your entire library’s performance over time. Wistia also allows your videos to be viewed on Twitter, a definite plus in our mobile-centric world.

As with all business matters, its best to examine all of your options for video hosting and learning their pros and cons. Contact aideM Media today and let us help you spearhead the video campaign that’s right your company.

Changing Leaves, Changing Colors: The Importance of Using Color Correction

Jordan Edit


Derek Lau

Just as Autumn leaves turn the countryside from a single shade into a rich tapestry of hues, color correction can take an amateurish video and make it into an eye-catching work of professionalism. Once a luxury for major studios, color correction is now a standard procedure in the video industry, thanks to widely-available programs like DaVinci. Virtually every motion picture and TV show now uses color correction and it’s important to budget for it if you want your video to stand out and look like you put time and effort into it.

Why is color correction so important? Well simply put, it makes everything look more like a movie. What may look like a stunning shade of red in real life may only look okay onscreen, so color correction software allows you to deepen the red until it’s to your liking. Color correction also allows you to adjust entire spectrums of color, meaning you can make shadows darker to create a tenser mood or adjust different two separate colors to make them more harmonious. For the especially adventurous, color correction also opens up infinite possibilities for experimentation. If you want a pink sky, a chocolate ocean or a green-and-purple cow, all you need are fingers and the proper keystrokes.

Color correction is an easy and relatively quick way to give your video that extra bit of production value and catch the eye of a potential customer. Drop us a line and let us start brightening up your videos today.

Will ‘Avatar 2’ explore the uncharted world of 120 fps?

Dire Horse


Peter Swarr

It’s been nearly five years since James Cameron’s FX-opera ‘Avatar’ hit theaters, but expectations for the sequel (or rather ‘sequel trilogy,’ as Cameron confirmed that three sequels would be produced simultaneously last December) continue to run high both in the film industry and among the general public. While details remain scarce and vague, a recent rumor regarding the use of higher frame rates offered tantalizing hints of the game-changing moves that Cameron may be planning, should he confirm the use of this largely-untested technology. While speaking with the Hollywood Reporter, special effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull confirmed that he’d spoken with Jon Landau, Cameron’s producer, though admitted he hadn’t talked to Cameron himself about the matter. Trumbull – whose credits include ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘Blade Runner’ – said that “the use of HFRs (high frame rates) for ‘Avatar’ would be very appropriate and very successful” and claimed that studios were becoming more open to using his patented technology thanks to this year’s lackluster summer box office season.


Trumbull’s HFR technology, dubbed MAGI, allows for 3-D screenings in 4K at 120 fps. That’s 3 times as much resolution as HD TV and 5 times faster than traditional screenings.

What exactly is HFR technology and how could it revolutionize cinema? Well basically it’s a novel process where footage is shot with a significantly higher image-to-second ratio, which would allow for a crisper picture and more realistic digital effects. At the end of the silent film era, the film industry adopted 24 frames-per-second as the standard projection speed in order to maximize efficiency and quality in the emerging sound film market. With the growing push to make digital projection systems the industry norm however, many forward-thinking cinema technicians have begun to wonder if the age-old 24 fps standard should be relegated to history’s dustbin alongside the silent film technology that it helped replace. In some capacity, the HFR era has already begun, thanks to the special screenings of ‘The Hobbit’ in 48 fps back in 2012.

So when can we expect to see HFR screenings become the norm? Well as always, it comes down to money. Trumbull’s first attempted to win the industry over to his new technology way back in the early 1980s and found his efforts thwarted by profit-conscious theater owners who balked at the idea of install expensive new equipment for a single film release. Today, their concerns remain largely unchanged despite the HFR release of ‘The Hobbit.’ Will HFR tech really bring in more customers? And will Hollywood be making HFR films on a regular basis 5, 10 or even 3 years from now? What about the complaints we heard about those 48 fps screenings of ‘The Hobbit’? We heard reports that the picture quality looked off and made some people uneasy?

For his part, Trumbull takes these criticisms in stride and claims that his technology won’t fall victim to the same picture issues as ‘The Hobbit.’ “’The Hobbit’ fell victim to the ‘uncanny valley’,” Trumbull stated, referring to the idea that comfort levels decrease sharply as virtual characters and effects approach, but ultimately fall short of, completely realistic levels of detail. “But when you dramatically increase the frame rate to 120 fps you jump over the valley to a whole new territory.” Whether or not this turns out to be the case remains to be seen, but Trumbull could hardly hope for a better champion than James Cameron, who’s made groundbreaking FX one of his trademarks. Theater owners will also no doubt acquiesce to the fiscal demands of HFR tech should he choose to use it, thanks to the lucrative 3-D market that ‘Avatar’ helped
jump start.

Much like Sarah Connor, Cameron appears to hold the future in hands right now. One can only hope he acts wisely.

Pete’s Picks – Top 5 Football Movies


1. Remember the Titans
Though it’s a bit more ‘story’ than ‘true,’ this tale of integration in a small town calls all the right plays when it comes to inspiring drama. While we’ve seen all of ‘Titans’ elements before (tough-love teacher whips teens into shape, a small town learns to let go of prejudice), Denzel Washington’s command presence holds everything together and lends gravitas to the unabashed idealism on display.

Film Title: Friday Night Lights

2. Friday Night Lights
As we all know, everything is bigger in Texas and apparently that goes for existential despair as well as stadiums. Digging beneath the spectacle and adrenaline rushes of gridiron action, this 2004 film – and the TV series it inspired – dares to look beyond the championship game and ask ‘what will become of them?,’ with the answers ranging from troubling to downright disheartening. Extra points go to Tim McGraw for his moving role as an abusive father consumed with disillusion over his post-graduation life.


3. North Dallas Forty
This oft-overlooked ‘70s flick follows the debauched misadventures of Phil Elliott, a devil-may-care Wide Receiver for a fictional Texas pro team. Where most sports films treat their subjects with suffocating reverence, ‘North Dallas Forty’ dares to smirk at all those involved with America’s second-most-favorite pastime and provides a much-needed counterbalance to the endless stream of ‘underdog gets a shot at playing pro’ sports flicks that Hollywood continues to crank out.

4. Brian’s Song
This made-for-TV movie (which pulled of the still-unbelievable feat of getting a theatrical premiere after its TV broadcast) follows the true story of running back Brian Piccolo’s battle with cancer and his friendship with Hall of Famer and fellow running back Gale Sayers. ‘70s stalwarts James Caan and Billy Dee Williams star as Piccolo and Sayers respectively and help illustrate how the most gripping drama sometimes happens off the field.


5. Varsity Blues
A proto-‘Friday Night Lights’ from the ‘90s, this coming-of-age film follows restless teens in a small Texas town caught between escaping their tiny worlds and surviving the merciless and ultimately dangerous leadership of their hardnosed coach. Like many recent sports films, the message isn’t so much ‘let’s get inspired’ as ‘how far is too far?,’ though the climactic locker room showdown provides a much-needed sense of hope in the face of corrupt authority.

What is ‘Machinima’ and how is it conquering the world?

Peter Ferguson Swarr


It’s no big secret that streaming content has gained significant ground in recent years, especially within the coveted ‘young, single and cash-happy male’ demographic. But while Netflix, YouTube and Hulu get all of the media coverage, another platform with equally impressive numbers has taken root over the past decade and shows no signs of fading away anytime soon. You may not recognize the name ‘,’ but its website boasts that it provides content to 1 in 6 U.S. internet users who stream videos online and racks up 2 billion video views every month. A profile in Wired magazine claimed that the site’s coverage of the 2012 E3 convention – the Sundance Film Festival of the videogame world – earned them 455 million views over the course of a single week, including 14.4 million views for one day alone.

What’s earned Machinima such a following? Unlike Netflix and Hulu, they specialize in user-created content and unlike YouTube, they have honed in on a single, highly-lucrative market: videogames. Essentially, gamers tape themselves playing videogames and providing commentary, often with picture-in-picture videos to show their reactions. These videos get posted on one of Machinima’s YouTube channels, other gamers watch them and the most successful series get picked up for contracts. This simple, yet potent formula has worked so well that Machinima has even started producing original dramatic content, most notably their Microsoft-assisted ‘Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn’ web series and the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ prequel ‘Blood and Chrome.’


‘Halo 4:Forward Unto Dawn’ production still.

While labeling anything ‘the way of the future’ can be risky at best, Machinima’s user-driven approach to creating content does provide an interesting alternative to the traditional top-down methods employed by TV networks and movie studios. One can’t help but wonder what innovations might be achieved if those same industries took note and let the fans take the controls for a change.

The Benefits of Training Videos

Derek Lau

Are you sick of having to personally train every new employee at your business? Do you want to make sure that every employee receives the same level of training and prevent protocol problems down the road? Then consider investing in a training video for your business. Training videos are easy to produce, can be used for years and ensure that every employee receives a uniform training regimen.

Before creating a training video, ask yourself which procedures and policies you’d like to cover. As with any lesson, the basics should be covered first. Safety procedures, health protocol and company rules regarding conduct are good places to start, as they’re the least likely to change
sporadically and will ensure that all employees are aware of what’s expected of them. Once these areas are covered, you can move on to more specific tasks and procedures, though it’s important to keep the video’s running time and the permanence of said tasks and procedures in mind when drawing up an outline. Will you be purchasing new equipment in a few years? Best save that lesson for an in-person tutorial.

Once you’ve finished your training video, a good next step would be to create a short test for new employees to take after watching it. This will ensure that they’ve retained the lessons in the video and serve to re-enforce key points. Make sure that employees know that this test doesn’t count for or against their employment, but rather serves simply to help them review and remember what they learned from the video.

If you’re interested in creating a training video for your business, contact us here at aideM Media and let us help you get started today.

Pete’s Picks – Top Five Movie Teachers

1. Severus Snape in the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise
Sure he’s sour and strict, but boosting students’ self-esteem only goes so far when the fate of the magical world hangs in the balance. Without Snape’s cunning and encyclopedic knowledge of all things dark and dangerous, the Boy Who Lived would have surely ended up as a dementor fodder long before the Battle of Hogwarts.

2. Yoda in the ‘Star Wars’ franchise
Despite being the size of a lawn gnome and having trouble with pre-school grammar, no one holds more sway over the ‘Star Wars’ saga than Yoda. In a world of moon-sized space stations, desert planets and hyperspace, Yoda provides a Zen-like center, free from anxiety and brimming with wisdom. Where others do battle, he instructs and challenges, with nothing but centuries of experience to defend himself.

3. Dewey Finn in “School of Rock”
A lot of the times, the teachers we remember the most were the ones who acted a little like kids. In this goofball spin on the ‘inspirational teacher’ trope, Jack Black upends the traditional ‘master-pupil’ relationship and uses his child-like joie de vivre to get his prep school students to loosen up and rock out for a change. With the winking over-the-topness that he honed with Tenacious D, Jack Black manages to serve up the age-old ‘rock is liberation’ battle-cry and make it look both fresh and even a little convincing.

4. Elizabeth Halsey in “Bad Teacher”
While inspirational movies about no-nonsense teachers winning over troubled students with potential are all well and good, anyone who’s set foot in a classroom knows that some teachers are just, well, bad. Cameron Diaz sharply milks this awkward truth for laughs in this not-for-kids comedy. As an added jab at the idea that all teachers are upstanding individuals, her character uses up most of her class time by showing inspirational movies about teachers like ‘Stand and Deliver’ while she sleeps off a hangover.

5. John Keating in “Dead Poets Society”
A good teacher knows that not all lessons require textbooks and exams and that finding out who you are can often be as important as expressing what you know. Where “Freedom Writers” celebrates inspiring the underprivileged to acquire knowledge, “Dead Poets Society” celebrates one oddball teacher’s attempts to inspire the knowledgeable to acquire experience or “suck the marrow out of life,” as Williams’ John Keating might say.

Snowpiercer: Has VOD’s train finally come in?

As the summer blockbuster season lumbers on towards Labor Day, something truly out-of-the-ordinary blipped to life on the cultural radar, defying all conventional wisdom and possibly even signaling a sea change in an industry grown fat on sequels, remakes and comic book franchises. ‘Snowpiercer,’ a science-fiction thriller starring ‘Captain America’ lead Chris Evans and directed by Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho, debuted on video-on-demand a mere two weeks after it received its theatrical premier in major cities and raked in a respectable $1.1 million from the service, nearly doubling its box office numbers despite a limited ad campaign. In comparison to the fourth ‘Transformers’ movie, which took the top spot over the weekend with over $100 million, the numbers may look like a drop in the bucket, but they’re solid enough to get industry insiders talking and raise questions about how films will be released in the years to come. If you can make money just from putting a movie on VOD, is paying for a theatrical release even worth it anymore?

Tilda Swinton (far left) and Chris Evans (center) bring a level of star power rarely seen on VOD.

In many ways, it’s hard to see why ‘Snowpiercer’ didn’t get a wide release. All of the ingredients for a profitable summer blockbuster – solid performances, visceral action scenes, eye-popping FX – are in place and the fact that it’s being talked about at all after premiering on only eight screens proves that it has a wide, if not quite universal, appeal. Yet Bong Joon-ho’s idiosyncratic directing, which makes use of sudden changes in mood and a careful balance of the satirical and the serious, pushes the film away from blockbuster territory and into the ‘creativity before commerciality’ lair of the arthouse flick. Throw in the fact that a major character needs subtitles and it’s easy to see why its corporate handlers were reluctant to put it up against ‘Transformers’ and ‘Planet of the Apes.’

Ultimately, the success of those two films ensures that we won’t see the end of traditional theaters anytime soon, but the success of ‘Snowpiercer’ still shows that there’s money to be made in VOD and that it could be used as an avenue to reach a special breed of moviegoer who’s fed up with the shock-and-awe digitalism of summer blockbuster. Harvey Weinstein, who guided the film’s release as head of The Weinstein Company, claimed in an interview with Indiewire that “…when I saw the final movie with the very artistic flourishes that we all love, I thought, ‘it’s not for a wide audience, it’s a smart movie for a smarter audience,’” which lead him to entrust the film’s distribution to his subsidiary Radius-TWC, whose two presidents, Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, had pioneered theatrical-to-VOD release models while working at Magnolia Pictures. Far from keeping it away from interested cinephiles, Quinn believed that releasing ‘Snowpiercer’ on VOD would ensure that it found its most receptive audience. As he explained to the L.A. Times: “85 million-plus consumers will have access to ‘Snowpiercer’ on VOD. The film will be more widely available than every other film on screen this weekend.”

VOD may not rival traditional theaters anytime soon, but ‘Snowpiercer’ proves that it will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.