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The Princess and the Frog

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Posted by Jennifer Davis

Disney does it again.Take a classic fairy tale, give it compelling visual appeal, put it together with a Randy Newman score and – viola! – princess is born in The Princess and the Frog.

I took the kids to see this movie today (let’s just say that with all the holiday excitement and sugar consumption, we really needed to get out of the house) and they enjoyed it.

The story gist is different than you might remember the story. In this rendition, the kiss doesn’t turn the frog back into a prince; it turns the girl (who wasn’t a “real” princess) into a frog. This sends this workaholic waitress and a selfish, penniless prince immediately off on an adventure involving voodoo, soul-searching, a delusional fire fly, a wanna-be jazz musician alligator, and more.If you have any princesses in your home, as I do, they’ll love the story.

Like all the Disney flicks before it, Princess and the Frog is a great movie to watch on a Runco flat panel at home (where you are likely to watch the Blu-Ray or DVD over-and-over-and-over again). The Runco LCD line, the Crystal Series™, featuring OPAL™ technology will allow the dark shadows of Doctor Facilier or the Bayou at night to strike the right kind of fear, while maintaining the brightness of the firefly parade and the fairly-tale mansion architecture of the Garden District of New Orleans – even in a bright family room environment in your home.

If you have a light-controlled basement theater or playroom, your family will love to watch it on a Runco plasma display, from the CinemaWall™ or PlasmaWall™ series, which has really rich blacks which will help illuminate the dark corners of Charlotte’s room or Mama Odie’s tree house boat (I know it sounds strange, but that is what it is).As an emissive display technology will make the lights of the French Quarter during the Mardi Gras parade sparkle!

Special props to Anika Noni Rose who voiced the main character, Tiana and did an awesome job.Bruno Campos, who you may recognize from bit parts on a lot of the most popular television shows, gives voice to the only Disney prince besides the Beast to ever have a story line of his own. And, who can forget Oprah Winfrey as Tiana’s mother Eudora.

A Christmas Carol Frightens and Delights

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Posted December 27, 2009 by Pippa Edelen

To jumpstart getting in the holiday spirit, my hubby and I dropped $31 at our local multiplex to check out the IMAX 3D Disney remake of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, starting Jim Carrey. Having played Mrs. Cratchit in Hallinan Elementary’s riveting showcase of A Christmas Carol in 5th grade, I was familiar with the story and had both read Dickens’ original and seen a range of versions, being particularly inclined to the version featuring Scrooge McDuck. Given the various iterations I felt fairly well prepared for what to expect in terms of the undead and blatant lesson of “do unto others;” however, I substantially underestimated how frightening this tale can be. As someone who startles easily, and hates to be startled, my neighbors in the theater were tickled the first time I screamed, rather loud, when something popped out of the screen accompanied by 30,000 watts of sound. They were understandably less charmed the third time I did this. And the fourth. And the fifth. The story holds nothing back in terms of death, ghosts, the afterlife and should come with a precursor this interpretation can be flat-out freaky. I cannot tell you how many kids I saw hiding or crying as they left the theater, so take note that this is definitely a movie only appropriate for audiences with double-digit ages. For the younger Christmas movie enthusiasts, I highly recommend the aforementioned tale featuring animated relatives of Donald Duck.
My previous exposure to big-screen 3D started with Jaws 3 in the 1983 and, most recently, the hastily-added 14 minutes to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. As someone who is prone to vertigo and miserably suffered through Beowolf with only my sour Skittles as comfort, I was delighted with the realism and execution of A Christmas Carol and give an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the incredible advancement in the 3D technology and application. Particularly impressive are the scenes where Scrooge and various ghosts are flying over London and the details and texture in the otherwise ordinary, everyday things, like the wrought-iron fence and the characters’ skin. The animation still lacks a small detail of realism, particularly in the characters’ eyes, which fail to sparkle and light in a way that simulates lifelike. But the people are so well animated that you can, upon being introduced to new characters, guess the actor voicing them instantly, particularly Colin Firth as Scrooge’s nephew who plays a well-wishing opposite to his cold uncle. You’ll find yourself trying to guess each actor as we meet new guests and ghosts.
My favorite scene in A Christmas Carol, which does a particularly good convincing job using 3D to suspend disbelief, shows Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present watching a Christmas party through the floor of Scrooge’s vast London manse. I was impressed by the visually-stunning semi-opaque wood that is blends to be both the floor of the mansion and the ceiling of the party. Watch for the grains of wood disappearing into nothing and for the pressure caused by Scrooge’s hands on the ceiling. Its small details and effects like this that make this picture particularly enchanting and rather whimsical, spookfest-aside. At the end of this scene, Scrooge looks up at the ghost and, if shown the image as a still frame, in 3D, next to a photograph of the character, I would have been hard pressed to guess the animation from the actor. The talent is simply terribly impressive and represents a true advancement because instead of merely forcing a illness-inducing gimmick into an otherwise enjoyable movie, A Christmas Carol and the storytelling is instead enhanced by 3D.

The story is timeless, but the application of the latest 3D animation technology, as well as the affect from really talented actors, including my personal favorite, Gary Oldman, make for a stunning holiday movie that may be the first movie I’ve seen that’s worth the $15.50 for admission.

This Side of Psychedelic: Avatar and Color Gamut

Monday, December 21, 2009

Posted December 21, 2009 by Jennifer Davis

A lot has been said about James Cameron creating Avatar for the medium of 3D.  Volumes have been written about how he staged the movie and made decisions based on the new toolset presented by 3D, but after watching the movie I was struck by something else entirely.  Avatar wasn’t created for 3D, as much as it was created for a wide color gamut.

Allow me to explain.  On opening night, Avatar was playing in 3D and IMAX 3D theaters, alongside a 2D showing.  Clearly, ol’ James is a pragmatist.  He knew that not everyone would spring for the extra ticket price (although I have heard the ratio was like 10:1).  But, EVERY theater showing utilized a color gamut called DCI, which insider’s may know as the Digital Cinema Initiative.  It is a wide color space that allows the plants to be shades of bright lime as red flying animals pepper broad skies.

It is a broad and rich color palette (combined with contrast) that allows the night scene in the jungle to jump off the screen when fluorescent plants glow on a dark background.  Even subtleties, like the little embedded lights in the alien skin (think fiber optic), is made possible with a wide color gamut.  Due to a optical phenomenon called the Helmholtz-Kohlrausch Effect, perceived brightness is based both on luminance (brightness as measured from the lens of the projector in lumens or off the screen in foot Lamberts) and chromaticity (color saturation).

A narrower color gamut (as defined by points on a CIE chromaticity chart) lead to flatter, duller imagery.  Most flat panel televisions and home projectors can hit about 70% of NTSC (the standard for television broadcasts which is the common metric for measuring color space in home entertainment for reasons we can’t quite defend, but that is an entirely different rant).  Runco’s home theater projection products are proud to accurately recreate REC-709 standards which have been the standard for movie distribution since the days of film. 

But, in typical fashion, Runco is innovating and setting new standards.
We have told you before about the QuantumColor projector from Runco, the Q-750i.  It comes with DCI color space as a pre-set.  However, if you want to enjoy even more of the dimensionality that is possible with brilliant, vibrant colors made possible by an InfiniLight™ LED illumination system, you have additional options.   The Runco Q-750i includes a proprietary color space is a whopping 135% of NTSC and takes you beyond the bounds of DCI.  Colors like cyan (which is the blue-green shades) and red are where this color gamut really shines.   With this color space and our architecture, lights really do seem to “light up” the screen.  Somehow, I think it is poetic that we called this color gamut “Native” in our menu structure, because it is the scenes of the native creatures and their homeland on Pandora that will look absolutely incredible in our Native mode.

And if it doesn’t exactly suit your taste, our included Personal Color Equalizer lets you dial up and down the colors along 6-axies (red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow).  We put you in the director’s seat, if you dare.

I can’t wait to see the movie again, but I won’t watch it again in a commercial theater.   It has just wetted my appetite to see it on a video device that can really portray the luminance and magic of Pandora.  I can’t wait to see it on a Runco QuantumColor projector and to experience the unbelievable world Cameron created,  in a color space that is out of this world.

I am convinced that after people see this movie on a Runco QuantumColor projector in our Native color gamut, they will forget about Cameron’s previous movie about the boat.

~Jennifer is a Linfield College Wildcat and has enjoyed her work with Runco for the past 3 years. In her spare time she enjoys running, golfing, working in the garden, and trying new things in the kitchen.

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