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14 TV Commercials Made By Famous Movie Directors

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It takes a long time for movies to be written, produced, shot, and edited for audiences—that's why, on average, a director releases a movie every two to three years. In between, some notable directors keep in practice by making commercials for high-end name brands including Chanel, Gucci, and Apple Computers. Here are 14 TV commercials from famous movie directors made between film projects.

1. Wes Anderson: American Express

Before the release of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Wes Anderson was part of the “My Life, My Card” campaign for American Express. Anderson was the star of the commercial as it followed him throughout a tough shooting day. Actor Jason Schwartzman and cinematographer Robert Yeoman were at the center of the commercial, along with Wes Anderson’s trademark other meticulous indie quirks.

2. Wes Anderson: Stella Artois

Anderson also did a commercial for Belgian beer brewery Stella Artois with co-director Roman Coppola. This commercial also featured Anderson’s attention to detail in re-creating French spy movies from the 60s.

3. Spike Jonze: Gap

In 2005, Gap commissioned Spike Jonze to make a new commercial that would signify a new era with the San Francisco-based clothing line. What they received was Jonze’s penchant for being anti-establishment and a prankster. Gap was not happy with the TV ad featuring Gap employees and customers destroying one of their retail stores. The commercial ran in a few cities before Gap pulled the plug.

4. David Lynch: Sony PlayStation 2

After the release of Mulholland Dr., David Lynch made an eerie commercial for Sony PlayStation 2 that resembled many elements of his 1977 film Eraserhead. While it’s unclear what this had to do with video games, Lynch made an unforgettable commercial with disturbing imagery.

5. David Lynch: Clearblue Pregnancy Test

Not all commercials are works of art. Lynch directed a surprisingly straightforward commercial for a pregnancy test. Was David Lynch really passionate about the Clearblue Brand or was the paycheck that good?

6. Sophia Coppola: Christian Dior’s Miss Dior

After the production of her upcoming film The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola directed a TV commercial for Miss Dior that premiered during the 85th Academy Award ceremony. The commercial starred Natalie Portman and captured Coppola’s trademark cinematic whimsy. The ad also featured singer Grace Jones’ rendition of “La Vie en Rose.”

7. Darren Aronofsky: Yves Saint Laurent

After the release of Black Swan in 2010, Darren Aronofsky directed a commercial for Yves Saint Laurent’s La Nuit de L’Homme cologne featuring French actor Vincent Cassel, who appeared in the aforementioned film. The commercial showcased Aronofsky’s ability to play with color and light, which reflected Cassel’s playful nature. The TV ad also features the music of Clint Mansell, a longtime Aronofsky collaborator.

8. David Fincher: Apple

In 2009, David Fincher directed a commercial for Apple’s new iPhone 3GS titled “Break In.” Fincher worked with one of his collaborators, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, who did the photography on Fincher’s 1999 film Fight Club.

9. David Fincher: Nike

Released the same year he was nominated for an Academy Award for directing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fincher directed a TV spot for Nike that featured NFL superstars LaDainian Tomlinson and Troy Polamalu. Much like the film he was nominated for, the Nike commercial “Fate” followed the life cycle of two pro football players (only in chronological order, unlike Benjamin Button).

10. Sergio Leone: Renault 18 Diesel

In 1985, after the release of his last film Once Upon a Time in America, Italian director Sergio Leone made a commercial that showcased the power of the Renault 18 Diesel car. The commercial also showcased Leone’s love for the Western genre and featured music from collaborator Ennio Morricone. The commercial would be the last film Leone would direct; Leone died four years later in 1989.

11. Joe Wright: Chanel Coco Mademoiselle

In 2011, British director Joe Wright made a commercial for the Chanel Coco Mademoiselle fragrance, starring actress Keira Knightley—who appeared in Wright’s literary film adaptations Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and Anna Karenina. The ad is seductive, sexy, and highly stylized. It also features singer Joss Stone’s cover of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

12. Michael Bay: Victoria’s Secret

Director Michael Bay is known for making movies that are excessive and loud. So when he was commissioned to direct a commercial for Victoria’s Secret, why not feature one with motorcycles, explosions, and numerous leggy supermodels in lingerie. The shoot also served as a casting call: When actress Megan Fox didn’t return to the Transformers film series, the 48-year-old director replaced her with Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whitely in the movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon, who appeared in this commercial.

13. Ridley Scott: Apple Computers

Considered the greatest commercial of all time, Ridley Scott’s “1984” TV ad for Apple Computer's new Macintosh premiered during Super Bowl XVII in 1984. While the Orwellian ad only aired once, the commercial was very influential on future marketing and the overall success of Apple in the early 80s. Apple CEO Steve Jobs chose Ridley Scott to direct the TV spot because of the dystopian future world he created in the 1982 film Blade Runner.

14. Baz Luhrmann: Chanel No. 5

In 2004, Australian director Baz Luhrmann made a commercial that reunited him with his Moulin Rouge! star Nicole Kidman. Based on the William Wyler film Roman Holiday, the 3-minute commercial was lush, flamboyant, and decadent. The commercial was so extravagant that it’s considered the most expensive commercial of all time with an estimated budget of a whopping $33 million. Nicole Kidman received $3 million for appearing in the ad.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]