Last shot of The Fabelmans

I recently watched Steven Spielberg’s cinematic roman a clef The Fabelmans. I can say with confidence not only that it is a masterpiece, but also, in particular, that the final camera shot is pure genius.

It may be my favorite camera shot in the entire history of movies. When else has a director managed to turn a single camera shot into a key character in the film?

Necessary medicine

It was sixty years ago today…

On February 9, 1964, four young musical geniuses showed up on the Ed Sullivan show and changed the face of popular music forever. As it happened, a confluence of forces had come together in that moment.

For one thing, it was the height of the Baby Boom, and therefore the world population of girls in their early to mid teens had hit an all time high. They were ready for a style of music that spoke to their generation, like no music had before.

Also, the population of the United States of America had been in deep morning for a little over two months, for a reason that should be obvious. Something as joyful as Beatlemania was more than welcome — it was necessary medicine.

…They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile
So may I introduce to you
The act you’ve known for all these years

Books++

I am convinced that there is an exciting future for the combination of books and spatial computing. It’s not going to be a competition between the two media, but rather a collaboration.

Books, of course, are beautiful. They are physical and viscerally powerful. We hold them in our hands and enjoy them deeply on a sensuous level.

But at some point soon, a book will become even more than that. When you open it, worlds of wonder will appear in the air. And you will be able to interact with those worlds.

Books will retain their immense power, but they will also gain entirely new powers. I, for one, am looking forward to what lies ahead.

Sweatpants

Having now experienced both the Meta Quest 3 and the Apple Vision Pro, I have a sense for how to compare them. They are very different beasts, and are clearly aimed at very different markets.

The Vision Pro is like that beautiful upscale outfit you take out of the closet when you really want to impress people. After you wear it, you need to remember to have it dry cleaned, because you paid so much for it.

The Quest 3 is like your favorite pair of sweatpants. You would never wear it to impress anybody, but you find yourself wearing it every day at home, while eating a snack or watching your favorite guilty pleasure TV show.

I love dressing up, but there’s nothing like a great pair of sweatpants.

Exactly the opposite

A tech journalist recently wrote, after trying on the Apple Vision Pro, that he was worried we were all going to become obsessed with spatial computing. But he’s wrong.

In fact, it will be exactly the opposite. The more successful spatial computing becomes, the less we will think about it.

By analogy, you don’t spend much time thinking about your refrigerator or your closet. But you do find them very useful.

Physical museum, virtual art

Recent issues around repatriation have gotten me thinking about the nature of museums. The museum is not just a place to look at art and cultural artifacts, but also a place to physically go with your family and friends.

Much as a movie theater or a restaurant is more than just about watching a film or eating, attending a museum is largely about sharing a sense of physical immersion with people that you care about while experience a sense of wonder.

So maybe even after art becomes progressively more virtual, museums may continue to be real places, and maybe that is important.

VR is film, XR is theater

Movies are all about the image. In a film, an ogre had better look like an ogre, and a giant needs to be a lot bigger than everyone else.

But on the stage, none of that is true. If a play is written, directed and acted properly, everyone in the audience will accept that a person on stage is a giant, even if they are no bigger than anyone else on that stage.

This is a fundamental difference, and it is essential to the nature of these two media. And I have a feeling we are going to see something similar emerge between virtual reality and extended reality.

A story told in VR needs to possess visual fidelity. You can’t say somebody is a giant in VR and then show a normal sized person. But in XR, the visual vocabulary is more like that of live theater. Because people and characters in XR stories show up right here, in our own world, we can bend the rules of visual fidelity, and audiences will go with it.

In other words, VR is like film, and XR is like theater.

Actor blends

At some point A.I. will allow acting in a film to be post-processed with the appearance of any other actor. But beyond that, the software will be able to mimic the movements, speaking style and mannerisms of other actors, living or dead.

Of course there are serious copyright issues here. Which means that creators will push the limits of what constitutes outright copying.

Rather than having an performance be post-processed just in the style of, say, Humphrey Bogart, we might get 30% Bogey, 32% Cary Grant, 33% Brad Pitt, and perhaps a little Peter Sellers to round out the mix. There will be legal limits on how much your post-processed actor blend can draw from any given person, but as long as you don’t go over that limit, you will still be within your rights.

I am curious where this all will go. It would be fascinating, for example, to see a performance that appears to include aspects of both Clint Eastwood and Bette Davis. I, for one, would not want to go up against someone like that in a fight.

Future choreography

When I do my morning exercises in VR, I am acutely aware that my movements are being guided in a way that would not be visible to anyone watching me. And that has gotten me thinking.

When these clunky headsets get replaced by sleek glasses, dancers will be able to see choreographic guides during their performances. Actors will be able to see the marks they need to hit as they walk through a scene.

In fact, they will be able to see script prompts in a manner that is totally invisible to the audience. And that may lead to a new form of theater.

An actor will be able to jump into a performance without rehearsal. This won’t replace traditional theater, but rather will be a new art form

Improvising a scene by following XR prompts will be a new form of entertainment, intermediate between theater and game play

I think it will be fun — a kind of Karaoke of the future.