The newest behind-the-scenes “Hobbit” production video shows the team hard at work in the post-production phase of the first film, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."
“It’s due to be completed literally two days before the premiere,” director Peter Jackson says at the start of the video, then added with a chuckle, “Hopefully.”
Much of the video, explains Jackson, takes place at Park Road Post Production, the building in Wellington, New Zealand, that contains the facilities necessary to complete that specific part of the film process.
“This is where we’re spending a huge amount of time at the moment… You’re going to see a lot of sleep-deprived people in this blog,” Jackson said. “Everyone’s working around the clock.”
The video starts in the editorial section, which a sign labels “The Bunker" and which contains the cutting room where Jackson and editor Jabez Olssen work on cutting the second film in the planned trilogy.
The director describes his duties in the process with a tongue-in-cheek attitude.
“When Jabez has something very simple to do that doesn’t need me, I get the cups and go make a cup of tea,” Jackson said.
The viewer is then taken into the previs (or "previsualization") section of the post-production team, which deals with creating what previs production manager Marion Davey described as 3-D storyboards for the movie. These help Jackson create his shots for the film.
During the video, the previs team receives an order for an image called “Goblins slowly move torture machines towards the Great Goblin’s platform,” and an animated stopwatch ticks off the minutes as the team works.
Next, VFX supervisor Eric Saindon heads over to Wexford Road, the production office where the “Hobbit” animators work. At the office, animation supervisor Dave Clayton explains the process behind animating the sequence in which three hungry trolls threaten Bilbo (Martin Freeman), including the use of motion-capture technology so the movements of the actor playing one of the trolls could be used for the film.
“Are there any more of you little fellas hiding where you shouldn’t?” one of the trolls growls in footage from the film.
“No,” Freeman replies hastily, dangling as he’s held upside down by the troll.
Jackson explains that the field of motion-capture has made significant strides during production, which brings the cameras to the next stop on the tour: the Department of Internal Beard-Hairs. The men working in that department motion-capture beards to be added to the film, which involves creating a virtual beard, then adding motion-capture dots to an actor where the beard would go, and having them act as they would in the scene.
“Motivation here: it’s dark, it’s stormy, you’re in the mountains,” beard mocap technician Jance Rubinchik tells the actor, who then winces and looks uncomfortable as he would in such weather as the camera rolls.
Later at Wexford Road, two staff members “release the animators” as the first task of the day. When they knock, the door opens to reveal a group of people dressed in pajamas.
“If people don’t have to leave, we’re happy for them to stay,” Saindon says. Shots show crew members cooking eggs, doing laundry, and even getting massages.
“We’re painfully conscious that behind us are considerable teams of people, waiting for artwork to do 3-D and the texturing and the lighting and the animation,” Howe said.
Director of photography Andrew Lesnie works on a sequence of the film in which Frodo (Elijah Wood) runs down the road as Bilbo (Ian Holm, in Bilbo’s older years) stands above him. Lesnie color-grades the sequence to clean it up and make it more attractive.
In the sound design department, one part of their work involves bringing friends and family to a field to scream and yell in fright – sounds which will be used as background for a dragon attack on a river village.
A red line on a map then zooms from New Zealand to the UK, where musicians are shown recording a bombastic part of the score of the film with lots of French horns and cellos in legendary recording studio Abbey Road.
“The premiere is very, very close, but fortunately, people are staying calm,” Jackson deadpans at the end of the video, followed by shots of people partying and fighting with ice cream and pillows.
Check out the full video.
Want to take a page out of President Obama’s book? Shop local this Small Business Saturday. Last year, after Thanksgiving, Obama skipped the Black Friday crowds (a security nightmare, we imagine) and the Cyber Monday rush (he had a few other things on his plate, like Pakistan, Egypt, and healthcare reform). But he made a rare exception for Small Business Saturday, taking daughters Sasha and Malia to Kramerbooks & Afterwards Café, an indie bookstore in Washington, D.C., where he browsed for books and greeted shoppers, including one young boy with his grandmother.
“You doing some Christmas shopping? Not yet?” he asked. “Well, we’re starting early. This is ‘Small Business Saturday,’ so we’re out here supporting small businesses,” the President said, according to news reports.
Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses nationwide. This year, independent bookstores are playing a starring role. On Saturday, the American Booksellers Association will launch Thanks for Shopping Indie, a weeklong promotion bringing customers special pricing on a bevy of indie titles.
For this inaugural promotion, the ABA worked with more than 20 publishers to get discounts on 66 ‘Indie Next List’ titles, including B.A. Shapiro’s “The Art Forger,” Jami Attenberg’s “The Middlesteins,” Junot Diaz’s “This is How You Lose Her,” and Bee Wilson’s “Consider the Fork.”
Each indie bookstore has its “own unique plans for the promotion,” Bookselling This Week reported.
“Because we love so many of the titles on the list, we decided to go pretty big with the promotion,” Libby Cowles, community relations manager for Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colo., told bookselling industry newsletter ShelfAwareness. “We love the message of thanking our customers for supporting independent businesses during the Thanksgiving holiday.” Maria’s Bookshop will display 25 of the staff's favorite titles in the front of the store with signage promoting "Books We Love."
According to ShelfAwareness, many bookstores will also be featuring a two-day sale on the Kobo Mini for $49.99 (it’s usually retails for $79.99). That special Small Business Saturday promo price is only available Friday, November 23, and Saturday, November 24.
We’re grateful for indie bookstores and we plan to wear our gratitude on our sleeve this Small Business Saturday. We hope you do, too.
(And if you’re curious what was in the First Family’s book bag last year, here’s a list: “The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz, “Tails” by Matthew Van Fleet, “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever” by Jeff Kinney, “Zen Shorts” by Jon Muth, “The Tiger's Wife” by Tea Obreht, “Descent into Chaos” by Ahmed Rashid, and “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selnick.)
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Some of the best authors, we think, are ambassadors, emissaries to a different place, time, body, or life, who help us, the uninitiated reader, begin to understand a largely misunderstood way of life.
Such is the case with Khaled Hosseini, author of the bestselling and widely beloved “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” As the first stage adaptation of “The Kite Runner” hits the UK, a film adaptation of “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Columbia Pictures is underway, and Hosseini reveals a drafted third novel, the doctor-turned author-turned UN envoy is embracing his role as a cultural emissary of sorts between Afghanistan and the West.
In a recent interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Hosseini said he wanted to build a bridge between Afghans and Westerners to discourage the romanticism that can render other cultures “exotic” and therefore distant.
“There are still myths about Afghanistan in the west, such as that the country is stuck in the 12th century. There is an element of romanticism too, as well as the idea that Afghans hate the west,” Hosseini told the Guardian from his home in California. “People there do have grievances of course, about the night raids and civilian casualties. It is true too that they don't like having troops on their soil, but they have done the calculation and decided there is good reason for it. They don't see it as an occupation.”
As an Afghan-American who penned wildly popular books (together, his novels have sold about 38 million copies in some 70-plus countries) about his birth country just as the US troops were entering Afghanistan, Hosseini was thrust into a role as an ambassador between the two cultures. With a foot firmly planted in each land, he’s helped Americans appreciate the intricacies of Afghan culture.
These days, it’s official: Hosseini is a goodwill envoy for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) and has established his own foundation, the Khaled Hosseini Foundation, to provide humanitarian relief to Afghans.
As troops pull out from Afghanistan, Hosseini’s work is drawing fresh attention. His third novel, “And the Mountains Echoed,” a family saga, will be published this spring. And the Nottingham Playhouse and Liverpool Everyman theaters have secured rights to stage the European premiere for Matthew Spangler’s stage adaptation of “The Kite Runner,” according to the Guardian.
Giles Croft, artistic director of the Nottingham Playhouse, told the Guardian he wanted to bring the play to the UK to underscore the many parallels to modern British life, including the immigrant experience.
“But it seems to me that it has another profound connection to Britain; as we move towards a complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan it is good, and important, to be reminded of the Afghans' own stories and histories,” Croft said. “We have inevitably become bound up in the tragedies and politics of this most recent Afghan war and the experiences of western troops,” he added. “It is easy to forget that the Afghans are a people with a complex and rich culture, with their own story to tell, and that story won't stop, or cease to be relevant when our troops come home.”
That’s why, as the world’s attention turns from Afghanistan to a volatile and changing Middle East, we’re grateful this Thanksgiving week for people like Khaled Hosseini, an author-ambassador who uses rich storytelling to build a connection between Americans and Afghans, one that we hope will outlast and transcend any military conflict.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
After Amazon came under fire for their financial practices in Europe, independent booksellers are leaving no doubt as to where they stand in the debate.
Signs reading “We Pay Our Taxes,” created by the Booksellers Association, have appeared in the windows of bookstores across the U.K.
During a hearing last week with the Public Accounts Committee, director of public policy for Amazon in Brussels Andrew Cecil was criticized for saying he’d have to get back to the committee with information on matters such as how the company was organized and its sales in individual European countries. Amazon channels its European sales through Luxembourg, where companies' profits are taxed at 11 percent, less than many other countries.
During the session, Cecil also stated that France is asking the company for $252 million in back taxes, an amount that also consists of interest and penalty charges.
Hodge told the BBC she thinks consumers should boycott Amazon and other companies – such as Starbucks – that were part of the hearing with the PAC. The British newspaper the Mirror is encouraging readers to avoid Amazon as well.
There are two different varieties of signs in booksellers’ windows – the first reads “Your Money, Your Bookshop, Your Community,” followed by “We Pay Our Taxes,” and the second states that the store “Can Pay Do Pay!,” with “We Pay Our Taxes” at the bottom.
“We're trying to promote ourselves,” Gerrards Cross Bookshop manager Janet Stewart told the Guardian. “We're honest, hardworking people who do pay our taxes – support your local bookshop is the message.”
A new patent secured by Apple means the technology giant owns the appearance of the page-turning animation used on their devices.
On Apple devices (and many others), an animation lets users slide from one page of whatever they’re reading to the next. But an Apple devices that move has an appearance similar to that of the flip of a physical page. While there’s been some confusion over exactly what it means for Apple to own this patent, as CBS News explains it, Apple’s patent is a design patent, which “protects the way an article looks,” according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
So other tablet devices and phones can still have page-turning devices – theirs just can’t look identical to Apple’s.
The Apple patent has three names on it under inventors, Elizabeth Caroline Cranfill, Stephen Lemay and Mikio Inose. It was originally filed last December.
By and large, the book industry today is a beleaguered one, dogged by stagnant sales, bankruptcy, and failure to adapt to changing technology like self-publishing and digital books.
And yet there’s at least one shining success in the industry, a $100 billion empire built in the last couple of decades – on books. It’s an anomaly all in the book industry would do well to study, if they weren’t so busy dissing it.
That’s right, we’re talking about Amazon – and we’re not the only ones. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was just named Fortune Magazine’s Businessperson of the Year, and the book, tech, and business worlds are buzzing.
In its profile, Fortune calls Bezos “the ultimate disruptor: He has upended the book industry and displaced electronics merchants…. He’s willing to take risks and lose money, yet investors have embraced him, pushing Amazon’s stock up 30 percent so far this year. And even as Amazon expands and experiments, Bezos remains zealous about delivering a good customer experience. For all these reasons and more, Fortune has named Bezos its 2012 Businessperson of the Year.”
The profile goes on to describe the strange mix of qualities that have made Bezos so successful: “clear thinking,” “cohesive vision,” “manic” competitiveness, famous frugality, shrewd ruthlessness, pragmatism, and reverence for invention and exploration.
“He’s a pro-customer, tightfisted risk-taker who is conditioning Wall Street to embrace his erratic earnings. If you’re running a business with high margins – watch out.”
What’s impressive about this honor is that the man at the helm of a $100 billion empire built on books edged out a slew of technology and telecommunications executives whose companies are well positioned in healthy, thriving industries.
And Bezos isn’t shy about his love of books and the role they play in his expansive empire. According to the profile, meetings with senior executives begin with “participants quietly absorbing the written word” as they “consume six-page printed memos,” called narratives, “in total silence for as long as 30 minutes.”
His inspiration for a new e-book product called Kindle Serials, delivered digitally to your Kindle in weekly installments? None other than Charles Dickens, whose novels were often published in installments in newspapers before they were published in book form. Bezos uses this decidedly literary inspiration to inform his business decisions, too: “Even in Dickens’s day, he would take notice of the criticism of the prior installments and use it to his advantage,” Bezos says. “We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards. That becomes the touchstone for how we invent.”
He emphasizes that customer-centric focus, as opposed to other businesses, which he says focus more besting one another.
“When they're in the shower in the morning, they're thinking about how they're going to get ahead of one of their top competitors. Here in the shower, we're thinking about how we are going to invent something on behalf of a customer.”
He went on, “I’m very motivated by people counting on me. I like to be counted on. I like to have a bunch of customers who count on us. I like being part of a team. We’re all counting on each other…. I find that very motivating.”
We’re hoping something in the article motivates folks in the book industry, too. Sure, he’s the person folks in the industry love to hate, but if the books biz knows what’s good for it, it would do well to study Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year.
As Chinese warrior and philosopher Sun Tzu said, “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”
As the industry fights for its survival, we hope it learns a thing or two from Amazon and Bezos.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The first trailer for the film adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s book “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” shows many of the major characters from the book and the dangerous world they live in.
“Bones” follows Clary Fray, a teenage girl living in New York City who goes to a club called the Pandemonium one evening and glimpses a group of people killing someone in the middle of the crowded room. Only Clary is able to see the murderers, which include a boy named Jace, and she soon discovers that the group are all Shadowhunters, people who work to defeat evil supernatural creatures that normal people can’t see.
The series currently consists of five books, with a sixth due next March, and the movie adaptation of the first novel stars “Mirror Mirror” actress Lily Collins as Clary and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” actor Jamie Campbell-Bower as Jace.
“Everything you’ve heard about monsters, about nightmares, legends whispered around campfires, all the stories are true,” Harris says.
The next scene shows Clary screaming as she sees Jace and others attacking someone in the Pandemonium Club. Her best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan), asks her what’s going on, having seen nothing.
Jace tells Clary that she can see him because she’s not a “mundane,” someone from the human world with no powers.
“If I’m not human, then what am I?” she demands.
Quick glimpses show Jace fighting demons and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Valentine Morgenstern, a Shadowhunter who is also the series’ villain.
Check out the full trailer for more.
What would your child say if you started reading a picture book at bedtime and her name popped up in the middle of the story?
You may have an opportunity to find out with the new app Put Me in the Story, created by publisher Sourcebooks. Through the app, users can insert a child’s name into Sourcebooks titles like “The Night Night Book.”
Kids will “feel special” and “excited about reading” when their name appears, Sourcebooks publisher and chief executive Dominique Raccah told The New York Times.
“For parents, it creates an unbelievable bond,” she said.
A printed version of the book with the child’s name added will also be available for purchase.
Users can obtain the app for free with one picture book and can then buy two more books for $4.99 through Put Me in the Story, with more titles added monthly.
The presidential election may mark the beginning of the end of Ayn Rand's renaissance. Or could it be the beginning of something even bigger?
Whatever the case, one thing is certain: Rand's never played a larger role in national politics than during this year, when her ideas about personal liberty and limited government became major players in the presidential campaign.
This week, I asked biographer Anne C. Heller, author of 2009's "Ayn Rand and the World She Made," about the ever-present power of the Russian-American philosopher. Heller dips into Rand's psyche, explores her antipathy toward politicians and reveals how her followers ignore many of her lessons.
Q: I'll start with the most vital question of all. How on earth do you pronounce Ayn Rand's first name?
A: In the early 1960s, a young engineer worked at a radio station when Ayn Rand recorded half-hour shows. He tells a story about her calling up after he'd announced her broadcast and called her "Ann."
"My name is Ayn," she said. "It rhymes with swine."
I don't know if it's true, and I rather doubt it. But it does tell you how to pronounce her name.
Q: My impression of Rand's philosophy is this: Our first priority is our individual selves. As for the second priority: Please see first priority. Is that correct?
A: That's exactly right. The preservation of individual rights was her first concern and her last concern.
By individual rights, she meant those rights that can be exercised without trampling on anyone else's rights. The minute you cross that line, she was against you.
That's one of the reasons why she was terribly suspicious of government. She thought its only function was to protect and preserve the right of the individual to do as he chose, as long as he didn't harm anyone else. Once he did, it became an issue of crime or breach of contract.
That was government's role was far as she was concerned: Punish crime, enforce contracts, and defend the national borders.
The Paul Ryans of the world, however her writing appeals to them, would never the limit the government that way.
Q: How else would she differ from her followers today?
A: The idea of putting armies around the world, not only to protect American vital interests but to promote other kinds of things, was anathema to her. And she wanted to privatize the roads. She thought we should go back to the old English system.
I remember interviewing her physician, who loved to quiz her: What would you do about this street right out front, East 71st Street? If someone wanted to buy this street, and someone else owned Broadway and another owned 72nd Street, would you have to pay a toll every time you turned the corner?
She said yes, that would be fine. She supports a free market to an extreme degree, and very few politicians do.
Q: What did she think about politics?
A: She was a person who didn't have a politics. She had what she thought of as a philosophy. How it all played out on a stage that she had little respect for, in Washington, wasn't of much interest to her.
Q: Did she like any politicians?
A: She supported Barry Goldwater, whom she thought was the best embodiment of her principles, but he disappointed her thoroughly.
He was religious and unable to, as she felt, speak about conservative principles in their purest sense. In some ways, he was like Paul Ryan – unable to divorce his conservative ideas from his religion and sense of a kind of Christian morality.
That annoyed her thoroughly. She was an atheist and believed that God, if he existed at all, would be a dictator.
Q: She's known for being sexually free. Would you say she was not only an atheist but a hedonist too?
A: She was a Russian to a core. She grew up in a time of free love in Russia, and she felt that was everybody's right, as long as they weren't hurting anybody else.
But I don't know that you'd call it hedonism. She wasn't a person for whom fine clothes, good food and living well were important.
Q: Why is she so popular among politicians who don't fully embrace what she believed?
A: A lot of them – Paul Ryan is an example – read her when they're quite young, the way most people do, at 13, 14, 15 or even 18.
They identify with her characters, who are heroes and create all sorts of new inventions and prosperity. But they really don't think them through to the degree that Ayn Rand did.
Q: Why did she speak through fiction?
A: When she first came to America, she understood that the Communists were the screenwriters, the playwriters and the novelists. Using the power of fiction, she consciously set out to answer them, to outdo them, in creating a fiction of free markets and individual rights.
She did quite a good job of it. She knew that was where the power lay.
Q: I know a young woman named Dagny whose mother who was impressed by Dagny Taggart, a strong female character in "Atlas Shrugged." Do you think Rand has inspired women?
A: I've never met a Dagny, Dominique or Kira who wasn't the daughter of someone who believed that Ayn Rand's point of view about the world was right.
Usually, Dagny is seen as a strong woman in a context of being a capitalist hero, someone who's not going to knuckle under to the looters and the moochers of the government bureaucracy
Feminists, however, do not embrace Ayn Rand or Dagny Taggart.
Q: But aren't these strong women characters?
A: They are strong women in the context in which you find them.
Dominique (Francon, of "The Fountainhead") is a perverse but fierce defender of the individual's right to do absolutely what he likes with his creativity and own the product of his activity. And Dagny is a fierce proponent of no government interference in private enterprise and a great exponent of why that helps everyone in the end.
Q: Ayn Rand's books have been top sellers for decades, but she suddenly shot into prominence within the last few years. How did that happen?
A: When I began writing my biography, she was under the radar. Then it began with a column by Stephen Moore in the Wall Street Journal just after Obama was elected, talking about how the world has become the world of "Atlas Shrugged."
That caught fire among conservative thinkers and writers and brought her to the fore. That gave rise to all the signs by Tea Party people: "John Galt lives." "Who is John Galt?" "I am John Galt."
The "We Built It" slogan might as well be right out of her pages: the idea that we do it all ourselves, we who open a hardware store in Abilene, Texas. "We're doing everything ourselves to your benefit, and you don't appreciate it."
Q: That carries on to Romney's comment about the 47 percent, right?
A: Exactly. That's straight out of Ayn Rand.
But that's not Mitt Romney, he's not a Randian. Someone told him that. I'll bet anyone that it's a fan of Ayn Rand.
Q: What does the future hold for the Rand philosophy?
A: I think we'll see it die down again, because there seems to be a sheepish quality among those who are speaking about her most loudly.
Senator Rand Paul was talking about how he wants to compromise. No one standing by the side of Ayn Rand is going to talk about compromise.
She wrote an essay about how compromise wasn't just weak, it's evil. That's purely Russian. She said there's right and wrong, but the middle is always evil.
Q: So she'd be disappointed if her followers tried to find a middle ground?
A: She wouldn't be disappointed. By the late '50s and early '60s, she was so jaded that she didn't expect much of anybody, especially her followers.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.
Grab a coffee, sink into a comfy chair and start browsing the most popular books of the season – all from your phone or tablet.
The app’s new Books category features 25 genres pulled from Apple’s iBookstore, including Bestsellers, Fiction Nonfiction, Biographies & Memoirs, Cookbooks, Humor, Comics & Graphic Novels, and Sci-Fi & Fantasy.
“Reflecting as many genres as there are sections, it’s like browsing in a bookstore, right from your Flipboard,” Flipboard said in its launch announcement.
Here’s how it works: the new Books category is available via Flipboard on all iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod) in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Brazil.
All you need to do to activate the free update is swipe down on the red ribbon on the top right-hand corner and tap the Books section. From there, you can drill down to any one of the 25 sections. Want to see what books are popular in other countries? “Tap the red ribbon and scroll down to the country selector in ‘This Week’ to explore books popular in any of these countries,” Flipboard said in its announcement.
As you browse through the sections, you’ll see large graphics of each of the book covers. Tap a cover to unlock information about the book, including author, publisher, summary, and highlights from critics. To purchase, just click to download from the iBookstore; you’ll be taken to iBooks for the actual reading with all its features, including “fully illustrated books like children’s picture books, art books, photo books, and cookbooks,” says Flipboard.
We’re excited about this new collaboration and curious to hear what users’ experiences have been with Flipboard iBooks. If you’ve used it, let us know what you think.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.