Posts filed under Gadgets

Actually The Truth Has Been Out There (A While Now)

"Mulder! Your tauntaun will freeze before you reach the first marker!"

Next thing you know, time is missing from your watch... trust no one.

Mulder and Scully are back as the first frame posted to the official X-Files Twitter account has shown the world. It seems like, for the first time in a long time, everyone is buzzing about the return of X-Files, which just began shooting a ten episode run in Vancouver this week. While ordinarily, this would incite a binge view of the entire X-Files series to prepare for the new episodes, it's actually elicited an involuntary twitch in my eyelid. 

A long time ago, in a day job not so far away, we were working on the then forthcoming Blu-ray release of The X-Files: I Want to Believe (the second feature film released in 2008). 2008 of course was a time when Blu-ray was still building momentum and it seemed like all the studios wanted to do the "new and interactive thing that's never been done before!" It seemed like every project was some overly complicated interactive doohickey. Our mandate from the studio was to work with Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz, as well as finishing the amazing work done by several authors who had published official episode guides for the first seven seasons, to create the ultimate episode guide and timeline that would prove to be a constant and invaluable resource to X-Philes. Dubbed "X-Files: The Complete Timeline", we would create the ultimate canon timeline for fans that also would allow you to easily track and layout running themes like the black oil, cloning, alien encounters, Mulder's sister, and more in the days before "hashtag" had become a common part of the vernacular.

But then if you sit down and think about the sheer scope, it's nine seasons, 202 episodes at 45 minutes each, and writing the synopsis and analysis while scrutinizing every frame to find dates and clues as to what day and time the current events were taking place while also tracking all the running elements took about three hours per episode. Math, math, math... that's roughly 25 days (straight, no breaks, no sleeping) just to get through all the material. We had roughly three weeks. As a point of reference, note fan Dan Goldwasser's website where he said the timeline inspired him to go back and watch the show from the beginning, but didn't think he could do it in a year.

Intrepid X-Philes Jessie Drake, Matt Popham and myself split up the seasons and set to work. There was a string of about eight days where I sat on my couch for all eight days straight, watching, writing, lying down to sleep for an hour here and an hour there (and having some of the most frightening stress-fueled dreams thanks to the subject matter). It was a long-haul where I essentially lived in the world of Mulder and Scully full-time, as did those working on the project with us. It was the ultimate binge watch... once again, before the phrase "binge watch" was even a part of the common language.

Serialized television plays so much better when you watch it back to back. It plays even better when you watch several seasons straight through without subjecting your brain to things like the outside world or common conversation. You're fully immersed in the world and you start to notice each and every tiny detail. So much so that we all circled around several issues with Scully's pregnancy which we were able to finally get a final read from the showrunners on addressing within the context of our text, giving fans definitive answers to some of their questions. Once everything was written, it went through several rounds of notes and checks with the showrunners and super-fans to make sure everything was accurate.

The huge amount of writing finally finished, the project then went into the design process and trying to make all of this work within the then-clunky Blu-ray technology. There was a lot of puzzle-solving and authoring conversations that Jessie and Adam Vadnais had in just trying to make the whole thing work, making sure that photos and clips from the episodes actually played and several other tricky elements that are fairly simple to do on your phone seven years later. Look at the recently released SNL app with 40 years of material, photos and video all on there in the palm of your hand. It's amazing to see the exponential progress of technology just in that short period of time.

When all was said and done, as a long-time fan of the series, who was first in the seats when Fight the Future was released when it was totally uncool to do so... I wanted to burn my X-Files boxset in a ceremonial funeral pyre.

I was fried. I hadn't slept in a little over a month, I had gained about 25-30 pounds of what I quickly dubbed my X-Files weight, and probably in the process had taken a couple years off my life.

Worse, when X-Files: I Want to Believe, which our interactive feature was attached to be a special feature on the Blu-ray for, was released, it was met with a decidedly mixed reaction from hardcore fans and casual fans alike. What we thought would be an incredible resource included was released, only a handful of people noticed. Clicking a "tag" (#hashtagweallgetitnow) was a little confusing to some, completely lost on others. A few of the dedicated DVD/Blu-ray review websites picked up on the feature and called it out as something worth note, which was a very welcome feather in our cap. But a big part of me sits here with a Mulder-like wonder if there's anyone out there that uses the feature as a reference, or if it's far too cumbersome to beat a quick Google or Wikipedia search for whatever answers they seek?

All of this a very circuitous way of getting back to the topic at hand, do I think I could sit and watch the show from start to finish as a primer for the upcoming new six-episodes? My complete X-Files television run boxset has a Post-It still strapped to it this day that reads "Do Not Open Until Doomsday" both as a statement of truth and a reference to a famous Real Ghostbusters cartoon episode. It's been seven years after all. And I think the answer is yes, the show is absolutely fantastic. Yes, even those last couple seasons. And the disadvantage to having plowed through it all so quickly on my last viewing is that it didn't have the time to process and sink in, much in a way that happened when my wife and I went back and re-watched all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation over the span of a couple years. I think it would be great to go back and revisit the show now that some time has passed, and even reference back to the timeline to see how I had interpreted it back then.

Just don't be surprised if that eye starts to twitch.

Posted on June 11, 2015 and filed under TV, Gadgets.

Classic SPT: Watch Ol' Bandit Tweet

He only takes his hat off for one thing... wait, that should be a hashtag. #yotyhofot

Hey kids, keeping this nostalgia train rolling, here's another Classic Still Playing with Toys article resurrected from the depths of March 10, 2010. Enjoy!

If there's one thing that I've learned having suddenly found myself unknowingly in the world of marketing buzzwords, "social networking is changing everything." Indeed, things like AIM, Facebook, and Twitter have changed a great deal in our day to day lives, but I got to thinking... you know what? Twitter is literally just the new CB radio... come back?

Let's be honest, who doesn't want to be Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit?

The dude has a solid defined personality; he's beloved all over the CB radio by his well-known call sign, he has a way of breaking up Sally Field's marriages, he has a cool hat, cool car, and when the Bandit calls out on the CB for help - everyone responds.

Everyone wants to be the Bandit.

You sign up for Twitter, you "follow" people under their designated usernames/call signs/codenames, you throw out news and opinions as you see them, chat in fragments with people you don't know, and when something's going on - you "scan the dial" to find out more information.

The thought occurs to me each and every time that I log in to Twitter to search for news before it's broken anywhere else - for example as I pass what appears to be a convention of cops on Santa Monica Blvd. and quickly log into Twitter to read how "Wampa261" just witnessed an gunpoint standoff mere blocks and minutes before I had passed by.  How did I find out about Corey Haim's passing this morning, where's the first place I check now for Avalanche game updates, where is the first place I went when a weird lady interrupted the Oscar winner for feature-length screenplay and I was left saying "WTF, mate?"


Not Google, not a message board, not Facebook, not a phone call to a friend... in two seconds, I can find hundreds of people talking about anything and everything just by logging in and doing a quick scan of Twitter. It's instantaneous, in fact - much like the internet made print newspapers and magazines scramble to retool themselves, it's sort of interesting how our social lives are suddenly shifting now that we have this instantaneous source of information. 

I literally knew about Corey Haim's passing the SECOND that I woke up - my iPhone, which also acts as my alarm, sent me push notifications from Twitter that a friend had direct messaged me with the news at three in the morning... crazy...

"What's going on across the street on Hollywood Blvd.? There are cop cars everywhere and they're not letting people walk the sidewalk..." Log in to Twitter... in 140 characters or less, you read that someone has committed suicide at the Hollywood and Highland Center. It's that instant. When my parents and I were stuck on I-70 coming down from the mountains over Christmas Break, we weren't glued to the radio waiting for a traffic report, I was literally Twittering with people that were ten miles ahead reporting the road closures and tunnel conditions. Eyewitness reporting to a frightening level. I've read that emergency services are now trying to find ways to utilize Twitter... can you imagine how quickly the "emergency broadcast system" will be implemented into a service like Twitter or Facebook once they figure it out? The revolution isn't going to be televised; it's going to be sent through the tubes...

I'm just in complete awe how; in the time between I started high school and today, things have changed so drastically. I've gone from wanting a "super-cool" neon landline phone in my bedroom and not having a cell phone, to suddenly no longer having a landline and not knowing what I'd do without my cell phone. I've gone from being yelled at by the parents for being connected to AOL for too long to being connected at all times, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Communication has been made easy, quick, and to the point (which has been a blessing and a bane for someone who really has always felt awkward on lengthy phone conversations... I won't even go into how being connected 24/7 has changed relationships and dating, because even I can't figure out how you're supposed to do it anymore).

It's crazy, Betty...

It really makes you wonder... what's next? Ten years from now, when I'm receiving a heads up display in my contact lenses and my girlfriend or wife is trying to chat with me all day when I'm at work through the implanted audio chip in my head - will I be writing a similar post about how the implant chip is just like Twitter? Seriously, where are things heading? And buzzword filled day job: please don't make me answer that question... let's leave it up to the people that have advanced it this far so quickly, eh?

Farewell to the Fuelband?

Nike's Fuelband Device (Courtesy Nike)

CNET and Engadget are reporting that Nike has laid off a good chunk of its Fuelband hardware specific employees and is shelving plans for the follow-up device originally scheduled to release after the latest "SE" edition. The device was among the first to really start the wearable technology trend and while many other options have been released by competitors with more features and functionality, the Nike brand and style of the Fuelband continued to set it apart. Both Cnet and Engadget have received a comment from Nike that it will continue to focus on its popular exercise software.

I wore a Fuelband for the better part of six months but quickly realized how inaccurate its pedometer was and stopped. Now I mainly use it as a cool Back to the Future feeling watch. If only it could track my vital stats and sleeping patterns like other devices. Have you worn a Fuelband or similar device? Tell us in the comments! 

Posted on April 19, 2014 and filed under Gadgets.