Sunday, December 16, 2012

Making Magic: The Cinematic Innovations of James Cameron

James Cameron

Many people simply know James Cameron as the Canadian director who made films such as The Terminator, Titanic, and Avatar, but he is much more than a mere filmmaker. James Cameron is renowned in the film industry for pioneering new technologies. He has done for film what Walt Disney has done for animation, by taking risks and setting new precedents. Let's take a look at some of the innovative things Cameron has done that helped his movies gross over 6 billion dollars.

Fusion 3-D Camera System

Fusion 3-D Camera System

The Fusion 3-D Camera System was co-created by James Cameron to record film in stereoscopic 3-D. It works by combining two HD cameras that film a scene simultaneously allowing editors to digitally overlap the image giving the illusion of three dimensions when finished. Cameron's system has been used in such films as Avatar, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Tron: Legacy, and Life of Pi.


Simulcam was invented for the filming of Avatar. It takes what the actors are doing and instantly transforms their actions into the world of Avatar. Movements can be seen as if the CGI characters were performing them. This instant digital representation took a lot of the guesswork out of making Avatar for Cameron. He didn't have to wait until post-production to see if something didn't look quite right. He could make changes on the fly with absolute certainty, which is invaluable for a filmmaker. 

Underwater Dolly

James Cameron's Underwater Dolly
James Cameron's Underwater Dolly hasn't actually been used in filmmaking yet, but it will be. It's a propeller/suit system that attaches to a camera and allows the camera operator to move seamlessly through water creating smooth and fluid shots. With this new device, it is expected that future underwater scenes will be as smooth as land-based ones, which will open up a world of possibilities for filmmakers.

In summation, James Cameron is not just a wonderful director, but also an amazing theatrical innovator. His inventions and innovations will be used for years to come to make movies as realistic as possible. He's already helped spark the 3-D revolution. What comes next, Cameron only knows.

Innovation in Web Development

Web development has changed drastically over the years. At one time, even though a developer may have had a great vision, he or she was only able to create a rudimentary "finger painting" representation of his or her idea. Now, with all of the technologies available, a developer can create the full fresco. No longer encumbered by lack of tools, web developers all over the world are turning 1's and 0's into a new type of interactive art. Let's take a look at the some of the tools that caused this internet revolution. July, 1997 via WaybackMachine

1989: The Invention of HyperText Markup Language (HTML)

A huge part of web innovation is the advancements made in HTML. HTML is a markup language that tells web browsers where elements of a webpage belong. It was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee as way for physicists in Switzerland to share text documents over a network. Its current version, HTML5, is a markup powerhouse with tons new of classes and structuring systems and a much simpler syntax. HTML is used on every single website in the world, and one of the most important tools that helped provide us with the modern web. December 2012

1996: The Introduction of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

After HTML, came CSS. CSS is a style sheet language that allows developers to design beautiful webpages. CSS is to HTML as a cover is to a book, it's the look and feel of the information you see. It is used to add color, change text, and (as of CSS3) move and animate objects on screen. (Example) CSS is the paint to the artist's canvas. Without it, the web would be bland and generic, or rely entirely on images, which would cause exorbitant load times.

Adobe Dreamweaver CS6, an all-in-one web development tool.

1994: JavaScript Begins Making the Web Dynamic

JavaScript is a scripting language used to make things happen on your webpage. Chances are, when you click a button, fill out a form, or see a popup box, JavaScript was behind it. It allowed web developers to use if-then statements to make onscreen objects react to user input. It it also used to design complicated animations that CSS isn't yet equipped to handle. It works seamlessly with HTML and CSS to provide a wonderful and interactive experience. JavaScript is an integral part of today's web.

Database structure of phpMyAdmin, the backbone of a website.

1995: PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) Appears 

PHP is a server-side scripting language that organizes all of a website's data (images, articles, passwords, users, etc...) on the web server and can then "call" needed information to the webpage. It is the brain of the website. It also allows developers to use the same information in multiple places of a website without saving multiple copies of said information. It is dynamic, light on the server, and powerful.

Mosaic, the world's first web browser.
1993: Browsers are Born

Now that we've gone over the great tools used to create websites, we should take a look at what's used to view websites. Web browsers, such as: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and IE take all of the information hosted on a web server and neatly display it on your computer. Not all web browsers are created equal, however. Each browser is slightly different (the most unique being Internet Explorer) and requires web developers to create multiple versions of code to make their websites cross-compatible. Certain standards are emerging, such as Apple's WebKit layout engine that has currently been adopted by Safari and Chrome. Hopefully, these standards will make it easier for developers to get their ideas across without having to worry about how different browsers will display it.

2012: The Modern Web

As you can see, a lot of time and effort went into making the Internet what it is today. Today's web developers wouldn't be able to do what they are doing if it weren't for the work of yesterday's innovators. The web will get better, but for now, what we already have is pretty amazing. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP (side note, these languages are usually learned in the order presented by web developers) can do just about anything, all they need it the right developer to make them work.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Breaking the Surface

College transfers are a huge problem. They extend the average time it takes to get a degree by 8 months. They are costly. And they are mostly done because students didn't get what they thought they would be when going to college. Most transfer students anticipate something completely different from their original college and leave when they find out it's not what they wanted.

So how can colleges convey precisely what their school is about BEFORE students get to college? At MIT they pay students to blog about their experiences. That's all well and good for MIT, but what about a lesser-known school, like Clark for example. What could Clark do to let prospective students see everything it has to offer?

One idea would be to have students film a day out of there life (like Shay Carl on YouTube) and upload the edited footage to video sharing sites. This way, most students will get a real snapshot of Clark. Or, we can extend the current stay-over program, letting prospective students stay the night.

No matter what we do here at Clark, it'll be an improvement. Any way we can capture what we do, is another way for prospectives to get a Clark sense, and that's the goal.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dale Carnegie vs. Steve Jobs

Dale Carnegie and Steve Jobs were two of the best public speakers of the 20th century. Both had unique styles that allowed them to convey information in entertaining and powerful ways. While I would say one is better than the other, they both are extremely different from one another.

For example, Dale Carnegie was all about "winning friends and influencing people." He really tried to build a bond with his audience. He spoke in a manner that was very anecdotal, like you were a dinner guest at his house. He was very humble, which in turn make the audience relax and more susceptible to his ideas. It didn't feel like Dale Carnegie was speaking to a group, it felt like he was speaking to individuals who just happened to be sitting next to each other.

Steve Jobs, on the other hand, was completely different. He treated the masses like one person, singling no one out. He spoke with polish and precision. He kept his personal stories to a minimum, only using them when essential. Jobs was the ultimate smooth talker, and he'd probably been a great used car salesman if he tried.

So there you have it, two of the best head to head. Sure, you can't have a clear winner, but that's because even though their styles were different they were both equally effective in achieving what they set out to, and that's all you can ask for.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Innovation in Design

Sometimes, as a company, it's hard to stay relevant. Sure, you may have designed an extremely functional product, but if it looks like a PalmPilot cira 1997, you're going to have a hard time making sales. So if you want to be successful, you not only have to make useful products, but beautiful ones too. And that's where places like Continuum come in.

Continuum worked on many great products over the years. They worked on the Reebok Pump in 1988. They worked on the P&G Swiffer in 1998. They also designed the One Laptop Per Child in 2006. And the Gatorade Tetrapak in 2012. As you can see, they've been beautifying products like shoes, the mop, laptops, and Gatorade for decades.

So what else does Continuum do besides making things pretty? They work on solving problems. They help make products sustainable. They help cut costs through effective design. And they make people want the products that they design. Just a few hundred years after Eli Whitney's innovation of interchangeable parts, we're designing for a whole new set of criteria, and Continuum is leading the way.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Samsung Vs. Apple

Apple and Samsung have been fighting for quite some time and we're finally getting to see the results of their battles. Samsung's loss against Apple was a huge blow to a company that was going nowhere but up. Samsung must now pay Apple billions of dollars and change the way it operates. Meanwhile, Apple is rolling in the dough. 

I agree that Samsung was copying Apple, but that's just because Apple created the standards by which we all use our phones. Like the article said, the steering wheel is round for a reason. Pinching is most intuitive way to Zoom and there's no way getting around it. Apple knew it and that's why they standardized it. It's too bad for Samsung that they can only copy and never innovate. 

This law suit means one thing: Samsung will have to try to be better than Apple. They're going to have to get up and get innovating if they want to survive in the mobile market. But hey, it's not always a bad thing to have a setback. Maybe, if they try hard enough, Samsung will surprise everyone, even themselves and create something great. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

The 7 Sources of Innovation

 Steve Jobs Demoing the Apple Macintosh, a Computer that Changed the World.

Inspiration for innovation comes in many different forms. From Eli Whitney inventing the cotton gin to Lee Iacocca being fired from Ford and turning Chrysler into a successful company, there has been innovation all around us for centuries. So let's take a look at what causes the wheels to spin; here are the 7 sources of inspiration

1. The Unexpected.

Losing your job, or getting an inheritance are just two of the many unexpected events that can spark your next creative idea.

2. Incongruity.

Sometimes the distinction between reality and fantasy isn't always clear. This paradox can easily lead to an idea that makes us all exclaim, "why didn't I think of that?"

3. Process Need.

Sometimes production just need to speed up. For example, Isaac Newton invented Calculus to complete physics problems at a faster speed.

4. Changes in Industry Structure.

Industries are extremely mercurial, one day you're sitting in IBM headquarters at the top of the world, and the next day Apple releases the first mass production consumer computer. Sometimes you need a couple of hippies in a garage to beat you to make you want to work harder.

5. Demographics.

Demographics (like industries) change very quickly. In the 60s, the rising African-American population played a huge part in how companies marketed their products.

6. Changes in Perception, Mood, and Meaning.

The world's a different place, Ike's America is no more, and gone are the days of Bing Crosby and TV Dinners. Companies and people must change with the times.

7. New Knowledge.

We like to think that we know a lot, but the truth is we've barely scratched the surface. For example, take a look at this quote:

Everything that can be invented, has been invented.  
-Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. patent office, 1899

Anyway, that's all for this week. I hope you're able to find inspiration, you've just got to know where to look!