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15
Jul

New in our buyer’s guide: The OnePlus 5 and two Surface devices


This month’s buyer’s guide additions fill almost every product category: We’ve got a smartphone, VR headset, games console, notebook and a 2-in-1. Those last two both come from Microsoft in the form of the Surface Laptop and the new Surface Pro. At the smaller end of the screen-size spectrum, we have the new OnePlus 5 the Nintendo Switch and Google’s Daydream View headset. Find all that in more in our buyer’s guide, and stay tuned for even more updates in the coming weeks.

Source: Engadget Buyer’s Guide

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15
Jul

Recommended Reading: Spotify’s other playlist problem


Spotify Sweats Over
Bandwidth Problem as
Labels Vie for
Playlist Spots

Andy Gensler ,
Billboard

Spotify was forced to defend itself against allegations it uses fake artists to cut costs last week, but the streaming service is facing another playlist problem. Billboard reports on the limited amount of space that record labels have to promote tunes on the service. Labels want their tunes at the top of the streaming charts, so the pressure is on the most popular subscription option.

Boom Shaka Laka
Alex Abnos and Dan Greene,
Sports Illustrated

A look back at the iconic basketball video game. If you played this years ago, or recently in an arcade, this is well worth the read.

The Original Fake News: Soccer Transfers
Rory Smith, The New York Times

Fake news may have risen to the top of our collective consciousness during the 2016 election, but soccer… er, football… fans have been dealing with it every year for a long time.

The Story Behind the Surge in Vinyl Film Soundtracks
Robert Ham, Paste

Mondo and other labels are leading the charge in releasing movie and game soundtracks on vinyl. Paste takes a look at how they’re doing it.

‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’s’ VFX Lead Unpacks the Secrets of the Staten Island Ferry Scene
Kwame Opam, The Verge

The Verge chats with VFX supervisor Lou Pecora about how one of the biggest scenes in the film was made.

15
Jul

U.K.’s first 24-hour ‘Drone Unit’ will fight crime from the skies


Why it matters to you

As drone technology continues to improve, we can expect to see police and fire services making much more use of the flying machines.

We already know how a camera-equipped drone can transform the work of filmmakers, opening up the possibility of awesome aerial footage captured at a fraction of the cost of hiring a helicopter and pilot.

Gradually waking up to the myriad of possibilities that drone technology offers, an increasing number of other organizations and businesses are incorporating the flying machines into their daily activities, using them to expand and complement existing operations while at the same time making their work more efficient.

Fire and police departments, for example, are already taking advantage of the technology, with the New York City Fire Department, for example, now using a custom-built remotely controlled copter to give firefighters on the ground extra — and highly valuable — information about a blaze before deciding how to tackle it.

In the U.K., meanwhile, two police departments have teamed up to launch the country’s very first 24-hour drone unit that uses an array of drones for a variety of situations.

Devon and Cornwall Police, and neighboring Dorset Police in the southwest of England, launched the unit this week following an 18-month trial. Several teams of officers are ready around the clock to deploy the flying machines where and when needed.

The equipment currently includes versatile DJI Inspire drones to which powerful thermal imaging and zoom cameras can be attached. DJI’s smaller Mavic drone is also being used.

Chief Superintendent Jim Nye, who heads the new team, described the launch of the drone unit as a “historic step for policing in the U.K.”

Nye told Cornwall Live that the technology “offers a highly cost-effective approach in supporting our officers on the ground in operational policing.”

He added that the technology will be used for a range of work, including helping with missing person searches, gathering images from crime scenes and major traffic accidents, and taking part in coastal and woodland searches to fight wildlife crime.

“Drones can even help police track and monitor suspects during a firearm or terrorist incident, as it will allow officers to gain vital information, quickly [and] safely, and allow us to respond effectively at the scene,” Nye said.

The unit acknowledges that current drone models might not be useful in all situations, such as when the weather conditions are too extreme for them to fly, and says helicopters can still be called upon as and when needed.

The Drone Unit has a Twitter feed up and running if you’d like to find out more about its latest operations using its new equipment.




15
Jul

Watch YouTube on a screen bigger than reality with Samsung Gear VR


Mobile VR (virtual reality) is a nascent field, but Samsung’s Gear VR is leading the pack. Luckily, 360-degree videos aren’t as tough to find, manage, and transfer as they used to be. A growing number of sites and tools have made the process a little less arduous and a little more straightforward. In the interest of removing all potential barriers and pitfalls that might get in the way of your video-watching experience, though, we’ve compiled a list of apps and methods to watch 360-degree videos on your Gear VR. Here’s how to watch Youtube on Gear VR, as well as 360 videos from Facebook and other services.

Stream 360 videos from the internet

Streaming is arguably the easiest way to view 360-degree videos up and running on your Gear VR. That’s because there’s very little setup — other than downloading the appropriate app, signing up for an account, and typing out searches, there’s not much calibration required.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular streaming video, TV, and movie platforms on Samsung’s Gear VR, and how to set them up.

How to watch YouTube on a Gear VR

YouTube

YouTube, the internet’s largest video repository, boasts robust support for 360-degree content. The Google-owned service recently launched VR180, a 3D VR format with a 180-degree perspective, and rolled out 360-degree video live streaming late last year.

It’s not exactly surprising, then, that VR video pioneers have flocked to the platform in droves. But Google’s VR-optimized YouTube app hasn’t made its way to the Gear VR yet — it remains exclusive to the search giant’s own Android-powered Daydream platform…for now.

Luckily, there’s another way to watch 360-degree YouTube content on the Gear VR. Here’s how:

  • Launch the Oculus Store and search for “Samsung Internet browser” (without quotes). Install it.
  • Once Samsung Internet browser finishes installing, launch it and navigate to YouTube.com.
  • Search for a 360-degree video using YouTube’s built-in tools. Note that it must be labeled “360” — 2D, non-VR videos play on the Gear VR just fine, but appear flat like they would on a TV screen or PC monitor.
  • Once you find a 360-degree video, select it and click the square icon in the playback window’s bottom-right corner to maximize the view.
  • If the video seems a little blurry, try adjusting its resolution by looking toward the bottom edge of the Gear VR’s screen, selecting the gear icon, and changing the resolution to the highest available.

You can also use the Gear VR to watch 3D videos on YouTube. Here’s how:

  • Search for a 3D video using YouTube’s built-in tools.
  • Once you find a 3D video, select it, and then click the “360 2D” or “360 3D” icon.
  • Click the square icon in the playback window’s bottom-right corner to maximize the view.

How to watch Facebook 360 videos on a Gear VR

Facebook was one of the first internet titans to climb aboard the VR train, and the investment has paid dividends — as of July 2017, the social media behemoth counted more than a million clips among its burgeoning VR library. In response, it rolled out new tools to make the experience even better, including live streaming, an analytics and insights utility called Heatmap, and a “guided tour” mode which lets creators direct viewers to the best points of action in the video.

Another point in Facebook’s favor? Its 360 videos are much easier to view on the Gear VR than YouTube’s. Facebook recently launched Facebook 360, a VR video app for Samsung’s headset, and it is chock full of search, discovery, and sharing features to help get you started. There’s more than just video — Facebook says Facebook 360 highlights more than 25 million 360-degree photos across its network, plus a VR-optimized News Feed and 360-degree content browser.

Here’s how to get started with Facebook 360 on the Gear VR:

  • Launch the Oculus Store and search for “Facebook 360” (without quotes). Install it.
  • Once the Facebook 360 app finishes installing, launch it.

The Facebook 360 app is divided into four main sections. You can switch between them at any time using the Gear VR’s touch pad:

  • Explore comprises Facebook’s most popular 360 content and sponsored videos from media companies.
  • Following consists of 360 content your friends have posted on Facebook, and 360 content from Pages and people you follow.
  • Saved contains 360 content you’ve saved from News Feed.
  • Timeline collates 360 photos and video you’ve uploaded from the past year.

While you’re watching a 360-degree video, share buttons let you post it among friends and react to what your seeing in real time. And a nifty Follow button lets you add the content’s creator to the app’s Following section.

How to watch Vimeo 360 videos on a Gear VR

Oleg Dudko/123RF

Not to be outdone by Facebook and YouTube, longstanding streaming platform Vimeo has launched a 360-degree video hosting service of its own. It supports resolutions up to 8K, and features a powerful discovery engine that bubbles emerging VR videos to the top of your content feed. But perhaps Vimeo’s most novel feature is offline viewing: You can download any VR video on the host’s platform to your phone.

Here’s how to watch Vimeo 360 content on the Gear VR:

  • On your Samsung phone, launch the Google Play Store and search for “Vimeo” (without quotes). Install it.
  • Once the Vimeo app finishes installing, launch it. Search for a 360-degree video using Vimeo’s built-in search tools.
  • Once you find a 360-degree video, select it. Then tap the headset icon in the mobile player.

Whether you’re embarking on a road trip to the remote wilderness, or just tired of being beholden to a spotty Wi-Fi connection, Vimeo’s offline 360 lets you watch Gear VR-optimized content without an internet connection. Here’s how to enable it:

  • On your Samsung phone, launch the Vimeo app and open the Settings menu.
  • Enable Allow HD downloads. Vimeo recommends enabling Download only via Wi-Fi, too, but that’s only necessary if you don’t have an unlimited data plan — 360 videos tend to be quite large.
  • Search for a 360-degree video using Vimeo’s built-in search tools. When you find the one you’d like to download, tap the ellipsis icon next to the title and select Make Available Offline. Alternatively, if you’re already on a video page, tap the the down arrow in the player window.
  • Once the download completes, you’ll see it in the Offline tab of your library.

How to watch local 360 content on a Gear VR

YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo put a wealth of 360 content at your fingertips, but what about videos stored locally? Thankfully, getting downloaded 360-degree clips to your Gear VR isn’t too much more challenging than streaming them from the web.

The Oculus Video app is a great place to start. The Gear VR’s de facto video viewer can handle just about any format you throw at it, including high-definition 2D videos and spatial VR.

Here’s how to watch videos on the Gear VR with Oculus Video:

  • Connect your Samsung phone to your computer via microUSB or USB-C. Enable file access.
  • Create an /oculus/movies/3D folder on your phone, if it doesn’t exist already.
  • Move the 3D movies you’ve downloaded from your PC to /oculus/movies/3D.

For videos with 360-degree field-of-view, the steps are slightly different.

  • Instead of copying the video to /oculus/movies/3D, look for the “360Videos” (without quotes) folder. Place the file there.

That should work just fine for 2D 360-degree videos, but if your file includes both 3D and 360-degree FOV, there’s another step.

  • For videos formatted in an over/under configuration: Rename the file so that it ends with “_TB” just prior to the extension name [Example: mymovie_TB.mp4]
  • For videos formatted in a side-by-side (SBS) configuration: Rename the file so that it ends with “_LR” just prior to the extension name [Example: mymovie_LR.mp4]

After the transfer finishes, unplug your phone and slot it in the Gear VR. Strap on the headset.

  • On the Oculus Home screen, select Library > Installed.
  • Select Oculus Video, and then select Start.
  • Choose “My Videos” from the list of categories.
  • Select a video.

Playback’s fairly easy to control. You can pause, resume, rewind, and fast-forward videos using the Gear VR’s touchpad. To queue up another video, tap the square icon; alternatively, wait a few seconds and the next video will begin to play automatically.

How to watch home 360 video on a Gear VR

Les Shu/Digital Trends

If you picked up a 360-degree camera with your Gear VR headset and want to view the footage first hand, good news — it’s easy.

Here’s how to watch the 360-degree content you’ve shot on your phone:

  • Record a video on your phone
  • Open Oculus Video within the Gear VR’s main menu.
  • Select the Categories menu on the left, and select My Videos.
  • Select the video you added.

You can queue up your videos from a computer, too. Here’s how:

  • Connect your phone to your PC via microUSB or USB-C cable.
  • Transfer your videos to your Movies folder.
  • Open Oculus Video within the Gear VR’s main menu.
  • Select the Categories menu on the left, and select My Videos.
  • Select the video you added.
15
Jul

How to making the most of an extra-tall home screen on the Galaxy S8 or LG G6


red-castle-tall-theme-hero-s8.jpg?itok=s

I like my home screens like I like my princes: tall, dark, and handsome.

The tall screens on recent flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the LG G6 offer up a lot of options for building and theming home screens. You can mix things up and lay your icons and widgets out differently — matter of fact, you sort of have to. Using the same layout on an S8 as you did on a Google Pixel will leave your fingers stretching, your layout wonky, and some of your space wasted.

Let’s fix that.

Add more rows

nova-desktop-grid-s8.jpg?itok=cNRomQ8Z

The standard home screen grid has been 4×4 or 5×5 on most home screens for a while, and while that used to turn out good home screens when screens were under 5 inches, on tall screens, that just doesn’t cut it anymore.

If you like the simplicity of a 4-column desktop, try bumping up the number of rows to a 4-column by 6-row grid. I’ve found something of a sweet spot for tall home screen desktops around six to eight columns by seven to nine rows, give or take a dock or persistent search bar (more on those in a minute). By adding more rows, you can fit more icons on your big, tall home screen, or you can better space things out.

Move your search bar

vw-theme-s8.jpg?itok=mu_C_prAunder-the-sea-theme-s8-screen.jpg?itok=Ganastasia-theme-s8.jpg?itok=qGKAWlKV

Pro-tip: Assign the pull down gesture on your home screen to Search.

If you’re used to having a Google search bar on your home screen, you don’t have to get rid of it, but if it stays at the very top of your home screen, it’s going to be harder to reach and less likely to be used. In an age where we can all summon Google with a quick command word, the search widget is less useful than in years past, but it’s nice to have a shortcut sometimes, and they can add a pop of color to your home screen.

Rather than having the search bar perched on the highest shelf of your home screen, consider moving it down where it’ll be a little easier to reach. Placing the “pill” Google search widget available in Nova Launcher about a third of the way down the screen puts it near where my left thumb naturally gravitates to on the home screen, so bringing it down has helped me use it more.

evie-launcher-hero-happily-ever-after-na

If you employ a launcher with a persistent search bar at the top of the screen like Evie Launcher or Action Launcher’s Quickbar, theme them well and get ready to reach. You should also consider a gesture shortcut many launchers like Evie use to make it easier to use that high search bar on tall screens: assign the pull down gesture on your home screen to Search.

Creating balance

Now, just because it’s harder to reach the top of your screen doesn’t mean it should be empty while everything sits at the bottom like cement shoes. You need to create balance in your home screen. Rather than placing items you’d tap regularly like app shortcuts near the top of the screen, place a widget that you’re more likely to glance at and move on, like weather or calendar appointments.

spaceship-earth-s8.jpg?itok=N3M1NplEexplore-canada-theme-s8.jpg?itok=Q5x9Glrcome-from-away-theme-s8.jpg?itok=KhuP1Xy

Towards the bottom of the screen, you can take advantage of the extra space and spread out your icons, or add a widget or two that you interact with frequently. For some themes recently, I’ve even disabled the dock to allow myself even more room to spread things out and arrange my icons diagonally rather than boring straight lines (thank you, subgrid positioning).

This leaves the middle clear for gesture shortcuts, also letting your wallpaper shine through and helping your home screen look tidier than it may actually be.

Go vertical

patriotic-theme-vertical-s8.jpg?itok=GDzstarry-mk-vertical-s8.jpg?itok=ETWRVtwbshanghai-theme-veritcal-s8.jpg?itok=hvFY

If you tend to use your phone with one hand, rather than arranging your icons around the bottom of the screen, place your icons along the side of the screen. This should keep everything in reach of your thumb, decrease stretching for icons, and leaves more room at the top and bottom of the screen open for widgets, should you so desire.

Going vertical on a tall screen can make your home screen seem even taller, but when combined with an off-center wallpaper, a vertical dock can create a unique and refreshing look to your home screen.

Have fun with it

frozen-forever-theme-tall-s8-hreen.jpg?i

You’ve got more real estate to work with now, so just play around with it. You might find a new style you like going forward, you might find that you don’t really need a widget you’ve had on your desktop forever, or you might just find that your old style works just as well with a tall screen as it does with a short one. The only way to find out is to play around with it, so what’s stopping you from finding a new, happier home screen?

15
Jul

What would you change about the HTC U11?


It’s time for some reflection.

The HTC U11 has been out in the wild for over a month now, and that means plenty of you have the phone or have at least looked into the details and features if you’re in the market for something new. Reviews of the U11 are generally positive, and it’s a common refrain that this is HTC’s best overall flagship in years.

htc-u11-solar-red-back-hand.jpg?itok=ajx

With that stunning glass back, top-end specs leading to great performance, a really good screen and a camera that can take industry-leading photos, there’s a whole lot to like here for $650 unlocked — or often less with one of the many discount codes floating around.

The U11 is good — but no phone is perfect.

But no phone is perfect, no matter how much money you spend or what company you’re buying from. Something could always be changed to better fit your vision for a smartphone. The U11 could definitely be a bit sleeker and the front bezels could certainly be cut down. We’d love to see a headphone jack here and many people have argued the U11 should have a larger battery inside considering its thickness.

So whether you have a U11 already or are still considering one, what would you change about HTC’s latest flagship? Big or small, no change is unwarranted here — we want to hear from you. Let’s get the discussion going in the comments!

HTC U11

  • HTC U11 review
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  • Manufacturing the U11: Behind the scenes
  • Join our U11 forums
  • HTC U11 vs Galaxy S8
  • HTC U11 vs LG G6

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15
Jul

Best Heavy Duty Cases for Samsung Galaxy S8


galaxy-s8-orchid-grey-20.jpg?itok=eN0xjI

Protect your new Galaxy S8 with a sturdy, rugged case, and have some peace of mind while you’re at it.

The Galaxy S8 might not be here just yet, so no, we haven’t had time to test out all the cases, but we know some dynamite brands that are sure to protect your Galaxy S8 from drop, bumps, scratches, and more.

Check out these awesome cases if you’re looking for rugged protection. Consider these the… Guardians of your Galaxy.

csi-miami-gif.gif?itok=oS58oNiU

  • Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro
  • Zizo Static Series
  • Caseology Legion
  • Poetic Revolution
  • Spigen Tough Armor
  • UAG Feather-light Rugged
  • Mascheri Prism Series

Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro

supcase-galaxy-s8.jpg?itok=Vjk0V2Ps

The old standby of rugged cases, the Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro (around $18) is the utmost in heavy duty protection for your Galaxy S8. These three-piece cases feature a front cover, back cover, and a holster so that you don’t have to carry a heavier phone around in your pocket. With that in mind, the Unicorn Beetle Pro doesn’t actually add a ton of bulk to your phone, but there still is a difference. You want thin, go with a slim case.

The Unicorn Beetle Pro is made of tough polycarbonate plastic and provides extra protection in the corners — the killshot for just about any phone in the event of a drop. You have your choice of black, blue (doesn’t match the S8 coral blue color), pink, and white.

See at Amazon

Zizo Static Series

zizo-static-galaxy-s8.jpg?itok=R8mmO8bP

Zizo’s cases are military drop tested, so they’re actually guaranteed to protect your phone from drops, according to military standards. The Static Series features a fold-out kickstand and two layers of protection: a hard polycarbonate shell with a silicone layer to disperse impact and cushion your phone. This is especially necessary in the corners, which are incredibly vulnerable in a drop situation.

On top of excellent protection, the Zizo Static Series also looks really cool. You have your choice of seven color combinations, which feature a black layer and then a vibrantly colored layer. If you’re looking for heavy duty protection for your Galaxy S8, along with a flash of style and a convenient kickstand, then check these out. Especially since they’re only about $11.

See at Amazon

Caseology Legion

caseology-legion-galaxy-s8.jpg?itok=2CGf

I love Caseology cases. They always fit well and they’re fantastically protective. I generally use a Wavelength, and I had my phone knocked out of my hand onto a gym floor. After cleaning up my drawers, I picked up my phone and it was absolutely fine. That was a slimmer case, too. Check out the rugged Legion series. It features a layer of flexible a shock-absorbing TPU with an outer layer of polycarbonate. You’re protected from hard bumps and scratches, as well as shocks and drops.

All the buttons are covered, but the coverings provide great tactile feedback, and your ports are completely accessible. You have your choice of black or orchid gray, which is meant to match the S8 color, though we haven’t seen this one in person to verify that.

You can grab one straight from Caseology for around $20.

See at Caseology

Poetic Revolution

poetic-revolution-galaxy-s8.jpg?itok=g4J

The Poetic Revolution is a two-piece case that you sit your Galaxy S8 into, and then you snap on the front. Most Poetic cases have a screen protector, but this one doesn’t because of the Galaxy S8’s curved screen. That being said, the raised bezel around the front protects your screen when you lay it face-down, and the raised cutout around the camera protects the lens.

The inside of the Revolution is made of flexible TPU, which is designed to disperse impact and protect your S8 from scratches. The outside of the back is a layer of polycarbonate, which takes the brunt of any bump or drop. The outer edges of this case are textured to give it a great in-hand feel that isn’t slippery, so you can hold onto your phone. You have your choice of black, a very vibrant blue, and pink.

Check it out for $15.

See at Amazon

Spigen Tough Armor

spigen-touch-armor-galaxy-s8.jpg?itok=hr

Spigen makes a phone case for every occasion and its Tough Armor series is perfect for heavy duty protection. It has an inner layer of TPU for shock absorption and to protect against scratches, as well an outer shell made from durable polycarbonate. There’s also a handy kickstand on the back, so you can watch videos hands-free.

This may look a bit like Caseology’s Legion, but the button layout is a bit different, with a space between volume up and volume down, so you can control your music on the go without having to pull your phone out of your pocket. The Tough Armor series comes in gunmetal, black, coral blue (which looks like it matches the coral blue S8, but we can’t say for sure yet), and maple gold.

Pricing starts around $17.

See at Amazon

UAG Feather-light Rugged

uag-galaxy-s8-case.jpg?itok=IT0bz701

Urban Armor Gear’s Feather-light Rugged cases are a staple of the heavy duty case market. These composite cases are made from hard plastic (outer shell) and a flexible and durable TPU rubber (inner shell), which come together to provide protection against drops, as well as a good deal of shock absorption.

The main nicety of the UAG case is its oversize cutouts for the headphone jack and USB-C port. You shouldn’t have to take the case off to listen to tunes or charge up your Galaxy S8, no matter the size of the cable.

There are 10 color options to choose from and pricing starts at $39.

See at Amazon

Mascheri Prism Series

mascheri-prism-galaxy-s8.jpg?itok=7qoqQc

Mascheri’s Prism Series cases has a 5-star rating on Amazon, with 98% of 160 reviews giving it the full 5 stars. For around $13, all signs point to awesome. This is a fairly slim rugged case, and it’s actually quite sexy, available in a sleek black and a soft rose gold.

This is another dual-layer case with a polycarbonate outer shell and a flexible TPU inner shell, offering the utmost in drop protection and shock absorption. Reviews also mention that it works perfectly with screen protectors, so if you’re looking to protect your Galaxy S8 on all sides, this is a fantastic option.

See at Amazon

Looking for something a little slimmer or a bit different?

Best Cases for Galaxy S8

Got one yet?

Have you already picked up a case in anticipation for your Galaxy S8 pre-order? Let us know in the comments below!

Updated July 2017: Added the Mascheri Prism Series and UAG Feather-light Rugged (by popular demand).

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

  • Galaxy S8 and S8+ review!
  • Galaxy S8 and S8+ specs
  • Everything you need to know about the Galaxy S8’s cameras
  • Get to know Samsung Bixby
  • Join our Galaxy S8 forums

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15
Jul

How Valve inspired Neill Blomkamp to start his own movie studio


Neill Blomkamp has a question: “If you could break apart films and treat them a little bit more like software, what would that look like?”

Whether it’s blindly following Amazon Instant recommendations or waiting for a film to hit Netflix instead of buying it, video streaming has slowly ushered in a new cinematic landscape; the way we consume movies has changed drastically. Yet despite the impact of the internet on movie-watching, filmmakers’ haven’t truly changed their creative process.

Cult sci-fi director Blomkamp wants to do exactly that. After District 9, Elysium and Chappie, the director set up Oats Studio, which has just released three short films — Firebase, Rakku and Zygote (collectively titled Volume 1). With YouTube and Steam as distribution platforms, Blomkamp’s new endeavor is aiming for a more collaborative approach to crafting movies.

While he’s still toying with how best to monetize his creations, the short films are all free on YouTube and Steam. But that’s just the start: Alongside each film, Oats is also selling “DLC” — its 3D assets and raw sound files — on Steam for $5.

For Blomkamp, this video-game-inspired “free to watch” approach is all about collaboration. By putting the shorts online free, Blomkamp and his studio can see which ideas people gravitate toward rather than pouring millions of dollars into an idea that might never recoup its costs. More important, though, the DLC gives young creators access to big-budget assets, allowing fans to recut Oats’ shorts or even use complex CG models for movies of their own.

All the shorts boast cinema-quality visual effects, and Zygote and Rakku feature performances from stars like Dakota Fanning and Sigourney Weaver. After watching Volume 1, I spoke with Neill Blomkamp to find out more about this ambitious project and how he sees the internet shaping his future movies.

The concept for Oats Studios is pretty bold. After years of making big-budget movies, how did the idea for this back-to-basics approach come about?

I think the core place that Oats came from was just me wanting to be more expressive and free to play around with ideas. I want to paint montages, not to fit into the rigid system that filmmaking has become. It’s been really cool because it’s very outside of directing in a traditional sense.

As well as giving you independence, Oats obviously uses the internet to connect you with audiences directly. What inspired the more collaborative approach?

The analogy that I think is quite fitting is thinking of [Volume 1] like an album. Films cost so much money and they’re so regimented that a lot of experimentation and passion gets removed from the process — because it is all so militaristic and hierarchical in how it’s executed. And it has to be like that because so many dollars are being spent.

Yet [albums] don’t require that level of cash, so [artists] can be freer to kind of play around a bit more. Short films also allow for that sort of experimentation. It feels really cool to be able to do that because you can start to tell when something is working and when something isn’t. And once all of the pieces that you feel do work get put out there, you can see whether the audience rejects them or whether they’re actually kind of into them. That can really inform which films, as full-scale features, you can feel confident about making.

Was it always the plan to distribute these shorts free online, or did the ideas for the films come first and then YouTube and Steam come further down the line?

The initial idea was Steam. It was an extremely Steam-centric project, and, well, it could still be pretty Steam-centric. But regardless of the actual distribution method, what felt very strange to me was the idea of charging the audience for something that typically is not charged for. People are OK with digesting something for free, but if you’re going to charge them for it, there’s an expectation. Whether it’s like a one-hour kind of HBO-style piece, a two-hour feature film or, you know, a 30-minute network comedy, they know what they’re getting and they can prepare for it and not feel ripped off.

I felt like that, given the strangeness of the format, people could feel very offended by having paid for them once they’ve seen them. And that just felt kind of innately wrong. I thought, if you release everything for free, whoever likes it is now familiar with what Oats is. So you could then theoretically charge for Volume 2 without feeling too bad. Then we could keep the lights on so that [we] can make Volume 3.

Given Steam is largely known as a gaming store, what made the service attractive to you as a filmmaker?

Well, I mean Valve is a very interesting company. Around the time that I was thinking about building a studio that made short films, I went down to Valve to look at some of their VR technology. I just loved their mind-set and what they did with video games and how they created microtransactions. It’s a very fascinating thing.

And so my initial thing was, I said to Valve, “Would you guys mind if I sold short films on Steam?” And they came back saying, like, “Well, no, we don’t mind, but you should also think about opening up all of the elements that you use to make the film in the way that we do with games, and gamers around the world do, by making skins or maps.”

And that kind of just opened up a bunch of things inside everyone who works at Oats’ mind. We were like, “That’s really interesting. If you could break apart films and treat them a little bit more like software, what would that look like?” And again, we were never sure if anybody would even be interested. [Selling assets] was never, ever going to come close to paying off how many millions we need to make one of these volumes, but it was a way to see if people were actually interested in [Oats]. Which is always like analytical data, really.

And it turns out that they are, which is kind of fascinating!

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Given the prominence of crowdfunding, I’m surprised that wasn’t your first port of call. You already have a fanbase — have you considered using something like Kickstarter to fund any of your feature-length movies?

Yes. I mean, we may actually be doing that going forward. I think what we want to do is difficult on Steam because Steam doesn’t really do anything like Kickstarter. Early Access is more a case of having, you know, beta-level games people are kind of experimenting with and knowing that they’re in testing, where for us that isn’t the case. If we were going to make a feature film out of one of the ideas, we would need to crowdfund it from zero, so there’s nothing to beta-test.

So that forces us more into like a Kickstarter, Indiegogo kind of corner, rather than Steam, even though I would prefer to use Steam. The goal is to remain fiercely independent and kind of just always be using our own money. If that means that we reach a point where we kind of really appeal to anybody who likes the stuff so far to help us fund our first feature, and then that means we can then make a feature that then may pay the bills for Volume 2 and 3 — then that’s ideal. So make film, get proceeds, go back into experimentation. And the experimentation is always free.

Can fans expect to see larger asset packs released on Steam at a higher price down the line?

It’s not really about enticing buyers because there’s no universe in which like, $5 ancillary pieces will ever pay off how expensive the films are. So there is no real threshold for us where we’re pushing [asset] sales and then suddenly we break even; it’s never going to happen that way. You could go the other way and actually start making DLC stuff free, eventually, which is probably what we should do. But the reason to charge for it initially was because I wanted to know if we could eventually charge for say, one of the films. So you put out three 20-minute films and then put the fourth 20-minute film only on Steam to be sold.

If you assume the DLC stuff is either cheap or for free going forward, then yeah, I totally want to put more stuff in there, just to give away whatever the tools are that we’re using. You know, I think of myself as a 19-year-old, what would I have been interested to get my hands on? We were thinking of giving away all of the raw footage. Just give away everything. But the problem is the amount of data — it’s just ungodly. We’ve already given away our sound files, music. So they really could actually recut the film. That’s pretty fascinating.

With the newfound focus on Oats, does this mean fans can expect you to retire from directing more traditionally funded films?

In terms of other feature films, which means me just working more like a traditional director, I’m definitely looking for that as well. You know, this doesn’t negate that. There’s a project I’m working on right now with Fox called The Gone World, which is unbelievable. It’s my favorite feature project I think I’ve ever been connected to. It seems very difficult to make, though, so I’m hoping it works out, but that is an amazing film.

What about the long-awaited Alien project you were meant to be working on?

In terms of Alien, there’s just no news. I mean, it’s not happening, and there’s nothing else really to say.

15
Jul

The Morning After: Weekend Edition


Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to the weekend. Water bears are hard to kill, we got a peek at Disney’s Star Wars theme parks and it’s time for EVO.

The closest you’ll ever get to a ‘3DS XL Lite.’Nintendo New 2DS XL review

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The latest addition to Nintendo’s handheld gaming lineup hits stores on July 28th, but we’ve already had our turn with the New 2DS XL. Sean Buckley reports that despite a new chassis, this entry isn’t the best portable gaming console in the 3DS lineup, with a shorter battery life than its 3D-enabled counterpart. On the plus side, it does have comfortable controls with smaller bezels and a repositioned hinge.

It doesn’t stop at just movies and games.Disney shows off a preview of its upcoming ‘Star Wars’ theme park

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As part of the D23 event going on this weekend, Disney unveiled a model version of the Star Wars-inspired lands that are under construction at its Disney World and Disneyland resorts. Ride specifics are still hazy, but one attraction will give guests control of the Millennium Falcon, while another drops them into a battle between the Resistance and the First Order. The parks are scheduled to open in 2019, but we’ll let you know if there’s any other news out of D23.

Now the thumbnails moveYouTube experiments with GIF-like video previews

Soon you might notice a 3-second teaser when your computer’s pointer hovers over a thumbnail, though it only works for videos that are longer than 30 seconds.

Here are your plans for the weekend.Tune into the EVO 2017 fighting game championships

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Get your fill of esports action today streaming on Twitch live from the EVO 2017 event in Las Vegas. For Sunday night’s final rounds, you can watch Disney XD and ESPN 2 to see champions crowned in Super Smash Bros. and Street Fighter V, respectively.

It got a nose job.See how Tesla’s Model 3 has changed since its debut

We’ll let the gif do most of the talking.

#FontGate.Microsoft’s default font settings are taking center stage in a political drama

Really.

Say goodbye to projector distortion.Samsung made a giant 34-foot LED TV for movie theaters

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Samsung has unveiled the Cinema LED Screen that’s an epic 10.3 meters (33.8 feet, or 406 inches). It runs at full 4K (4,096 x 2,160) resolution, features HDR and peaks out at 146 fL of brightness, “ten times greater than that offered by standard projector technologies.

Scientists, Steven Segal would like a word with you.Water bears may be the last species alive when the sun dies

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Scientists have discovered that the tardigrade, also called the water bear, is the world’s most indestructible living species. Researchers at the University of Oxford tested three potential catastrophic space-based events that could affect the Earth to see whether tardigrades would survive: asteroids, supernovae and gamma ray bursts. “To our surprise we found that although nearby supernovae or large asteroid impacts would be catastrophic for people, tardigrades could be unaffected,” says Dr. David Sloan, the paper’s coauthor.

But wait, there’s more…

  • Here’s our first look at Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ movie
  • White House releases voter-fraud comments, personal info included
  • Why TV is Facebook’s next frontier
  • Microsoft officially ended support for Windows Phone
  • Spotify denied allegations it uses ‘fake’ artists to cut royalty costs

The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t subscribe.

15
Jul

Facebook Live gets its first Emmy nod for an ACLU telethon


2017 is truly the year of online video services at the Emmys. Following announcements that Netflix, Hulu and Amazon all nabbed a hefty number of nominations, Facebook has revealed that some of its Live events also scored an Emmy nod. Stand for Rights: A Benefit for the ACLU With Tom Hanks, a telethon that put Facebook’s donate button to good use, has been nominated for outstanding creative achievement in interactive media within an unscripted program.

The event featured appearances by Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Jon Hamm, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Steve Buscemi, Tituss Burgess, Sterling K. Brown and a number of musical performers. It raised over $500,000 for the American Civil Liberties Union, a non-profit that vows to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person” in the US. The group recently backed the net neutrality day of action and challenged President Trump’s immigration ban.

The Oscars: All Access show that aired on the platform also earned a nomination for the same category. It showed clips from the event, pre-show interviews, as well as backstage and behind-the-scenes moments to complement the awards night’s TV broadcast. Finally NBC’s Hairspray Live!, which served as a companion to the musical that aired on the channel, was nomination for Production Design for a Variety Nonfiction, Event or Award Special.

Unfortunately, the Emmy Awards itself won’t be streamed on Facebook Live, Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, but it will air on Sunday, September 17th at 8PM ET on CBS.

Source: Emmys

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