Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Month: December 2020

Being photographed professionally

Anyone following Brexit will probably have seen this horrible photo by now.

Crunch meeting in Brussels on the 9th of December

From left to right: David Frost – UK Brexit Negotiator, Boris Johnson – Prime Minister of the UK, Ursula von der Leyen – President of the EU Commission, and Michel Barnier – EU Chief Negotiator.

On the right von der Leyen, and Barnier are sharply dressed, and look professional. On the left, well, the UK team look like a pair of farmers who are in the big city to receive an award for their pig breeding program.

Plenty of other people have talked about the horrible optics of this, so I won’t*. I want to just briefly talk about how you stand when being photoed for business reasons. It is something that happens to me from time to time in my professional career – at conferences, customer meetings, after interviews. You get asked to pose to a shot. It can be a little awkward trying to figure out how to look the best.

At the start of my professional career I was given a few pointers for when delivering presentations – men should not put their hands in their pockets, women never try and adjust your bra strap. But mostly you figure this stuff out yourself unless you are sent on some proper PR training.

The difficult thing is what to do with your hands? At the side seems so odd I never do that. It always seems the easy and natural to put then behind you as Johnson, and Frost have done. But as you can see, it emphasises your chest and belly, and will be unmerciful at exposing your tailoring.

Putting your hands in front of you doesn’t seem natural. Who stands like that normally? And is a little odd to look at when you think about it. But for a business/professional photo like this it is clearly the far better choice. Even the fact that Barnier is doing something odd with his fingers is hardly noticeable when the eye is drawn to stretched shirts and suits, and straining buttons.

I will remember this the next time I am asked to pose for a photo.

* What is really odd is that as high profile public figures, Johnson and Frost have presumably been on expensive training programs about public speaking, presentation, and PR. But they still ended up looking like this in public?

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That gives me a great idea…

This video talks about the use of virtual sets for TV series.

A cheaper, better way to put together sets.

The first time I had heard about this being used was for First Man. Ryan Gosling is sitting in a model of the cockpit, and the sky beyond is projected. So the light on his face and the reflections on the helmet glass look real -as they are real – smudges, scratches and all. This is not something it would be easy to do with CGI.

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, flying the X15 high in the athmosphere

All this got me thinking. If I got a 60″ 4K LED TV I could put it behind me for video calls, and then stream videos like this. Static images are so last year…

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Landing your space craft

I am a bit of a SciFi geek. I like good “speculative fiction” in whatever the form. And when it comes to TV and Film I do love me a good space ship landing. It’s great when a director takes the time and effort to do a good landing. You get to see the transition from a stable orbit, down the gravity well, and onto the surface of an unknown world. This is spectacle, this is dramatic. And it is something that only SciFi can do. Though of course not all Sci Fi does do it. Star Trek typically just has its characters appear on the surface of a world – famously for budgetary reasons.

I wanted to show three great examples of the evolution of the art of the spacecraft landing from film. Each one uses the landing to make a transition in the story. They all go for an approach that emphasisies technology, and at least a passing claim to realism. Landing a space craft is a serious business, undertaken by serious trained professionals. They are there to do a job, and they will do it properly, because that is what will maximise the success of the mission.

First up is the Saucer Landing from Forbidden Planet – 1956.

The professional crew of the UniteD Planets cruiser skillfully take their ship down to the surface of an unknown world. Of the three it is the most high-tech ship even if the production is the most dated! Bonus points if you recognised Leslie Nielsen.

Second up is Aliens 1986.

The planet landing is a staple of the Alien franchise. It is never a trivial thing for the crew to do. And it marks the transition where the nervous but determined characters are comitted to the unknown on the ground. Its clear there is no simple way back now. “Aliens” is the most militarised of the Alien films. The military trope of the invasion or beach landing is is similar but different to the space craft one. Aliens brings them both together. The clipped chatter of the pilot, the rugged ship, all tell the story of going from the space environment to the planet. This is a job for professionals, and that is what these people are.

The last example is one of my favourites. But I am cheating a bit. It is not from a work of fiction. It is Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon in First Man 2018.

Yeah this is a dramatisation of how the lunar landing actually happend in 1969 (almost mid way between the two fictional depictions). The presentation is modern (do blow up the 4k video if you can), with close up personal camera shots, only one long shot of the space craft descending, and an excellent athmospheric sound track. But it is a classic space craft landing sequence.

The crew have to get from orbit to the surface. They have a ship that is built for the job, and they are the professionals at operating it. What they will find when they get there is important, but right now the focus is on the flight from space to the ground. It is made clear to the viewer that this is not a trivial process. It is going to need a spohisticated machine, capably operated by experts. It just happens in this case the depiction is of a real event!

I will finish with a side note . I am not a writer, but I suspect that the TV Tropes website makes many authors, and script writers cry. It’s a very comprenhensive listing of every plot device, story line, and narrative element there is out there. If you can think of it, then TV Tropes can probably show you dozens of examples of it in use. I did some digging there, but I have not been able to find a Trope listing for the space craft landing!

[2020 Target: 24/52. 12,536/25,000]

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