How Criterion is Going Hi-Def

The Criterion Collection is known for excellence. The Criterion folks assemble "important classic and contemporary films" and releases them on DVD (formerly Laserdisc), often restoring the film from original negatives, working with directors, and including lots of bonus materials in the process. Criterion was established in 1984, and had to transition from Laserdisc to DVD in 1998. Just a decade later, times are changing again, and Criterion is about to move their collection to high definition Blu-ray discs.

Criterion is responsible for changing the face of modern home video, introducing innovative techniques that are now seen as must-haves by the video-buying public. Criterion popularized letterboxed home video with 1987's release of Blade Runner, and they introduced the first commentary track -- a scene-by-scene discussion which appeared on the King Kong laserdisc. Criterion also popularized the notion of a "director's cut" (and other alternate or "definitive" versions of films), often seeking out specific versions of a given movie, and working with directors to determine which is best.

As Criterion approaches the Blu-ray generation, it's facing some interesting technical challenges. DVD was a huge step above home video in terms of image quality, versatility, capacity, and stability. Blu-ray is effectively the same as DVD, just more so: more quality, more storage, more interactive power. But how does this increase in home theater quality interact with the classic films Criterion is famous for? Will the HD quality just reveal more flaws in the source material? Gadget blog Gizmodo recently toured the Criterion headquarters, giving us a peek inside the process:

...with that huge uptick in resolution for the consumer, Criterion is faced with a lot of problems that they didn't have when their masters were converted to standard definition for DVD. After all, they're often dealing with old films, created before there was fancy low-grain filmstock and digital processing. And with the technology they have today, how much restoration and processing is too much?

... "Grain reduction has become such an industry standard that people, when they see grain, they think it's a problem rather than what film looks like. Film is a physical medium that has this grain structure to it," says [David] Phillips. That being said, they realize that consumers buying restored HD films on Blu-ray are expecting near-pristine quality prints. It's a tough balance to strike. Essentially, "it's trying to stay on the side of not overprocessing but not leaving so much film artifact that it's distracting from getting engaged in the film."

Read the rest for a nice look at how Criterion works, and what challenges it's facing today. (The article is also full of images of Criterion's home base -- a must-see for film nerds.)

Marshall McLuhan, the Man Who Predicted the Internet in 1962

Futurists of the 20th century were prone to some highly optimistic predictions. Theorists thought we might be extending our life spans to 150, working fewer hours, and operating private aircrafts from our homes. No one seemed to imagine we’d be communicating with smiley faces and poop emojis in place of words.

Marshall McLuhan didn’t call that either, but he did come closer than most to imagining our current technology-led environment. In 1962, the author and media theorist, predicted we’d have an internet.

That was the year McLuhan, a professor of English born in Edmonton, Canada on this day in 1911, wrote a book called The Gutenberg Galaxy. In it, he observed that human history could be partitioned into four distinct chapters: The acoustic age, the literary age, the print age, and the then-emerging electronic age. McLuhan believed this new frontier would be home to what he dubbed a “global village”—a space where technology spread information to anyone and everyone.

Computers, McLuhan said, “could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization,” and offer “speedily tailored data.”

McLuhan elaborated on the idea in his 1962 book, Understanding Media, writing:

"Since the inception of the telegraph and radio, the globe has contracted, spatially, into a single large village. Tribalism is our only resource since the electro-magnetic discovery. Moving from print to electronic media we have given up an eye for an ear."

But McLuhan didn’t concern himself solely with the advantages of a network. He cautioned that a surrender to “private manipulation” would limit the scope of our information based on what advertisers and others choose for users to see.

Marshall McLuhan died on December 31, 1980, several years before he was able to witness first-hand how his predictions were coming to fruition.

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Arthur Shi, iFixit // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
The New MacBook Has a Crumb-Resistant Keyboard
Arthur Shi, iFixit // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
Arthur Shi, iFixit // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Soon, you won’t have to worry about ruining your Macbook’s keyboard with muffin crumbs. The 2018 MacBook Pro will feature keys specifically designed to withstand the dust and debris that are bound to get underneath them, according to Digital Trends. The keyboard will also be quieter than previous versions, the company promises.

The latter feature is actually the reasoning Apple gives for the new design, which features a thin piece of silicon stretching across where the keycaps attach to the laptop, but internal documents initially obtained by MacRumors show that the membrane is designed to keep debris from getting into the butterfly switch design that secures the keycaps.

Introduced in 2015, Apple’s butterfly keys—a change from the traditional scissor-style mechanism that the company’s previous keyboards used—allow the MacBook keyboards to be much thinner, but are notoriously delicate. They can easily become inoperable if they’re exposed to dirt and debris, as any laptop is bound to be, and are known for becoming permanently jammed. In fact, the company has been hit with multiple lawsuits alleging that it has known about the persistent problem for years but continued using the design. As a result, Apple now offers free keyboard replacements and repairs for those laptop models.

This new keyboard design (you can see how it works in iFixit's very thorough teardown), however, doesn’t appear to be the liquid-proof keyboard Apple patented in early 2018. So while your new laptop might be safe to eat around, you still have to worry about the inevitable coffee spills.

[h/t Digital Trends]

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