Friday, November 25, 2005

assorted video tales

miscellaneous video-related stuff from the last week or so...

the last few times i found myself able to take advantage of cheap days at the local cinemas, i have found that there really isn't anything i want to see (nevermind the difficulty in rounding up a like-minded and available movie buddy). even on my last trip to the video store i had a similar feeling and struggled to find something that i wanted to spend $2 to rent and watch. earlier this week princejay and i talked of doing a movie thing next week, and we both came to a similar conclusion about the lack of enticing offerings. they just don't seem to satisfy like they once did. is it the (quality of the) movies that have changed, or my tastes? is it that i've been fed on too abundant a diet of trash that i need a higher level of sophistication in my intake, or that i can no longer convince myself that the emptiness of what i watch has some faux substance / excuse for being?


i don't know how or when i first came across "joel on software", but i read the occasional article on it. i don't know why i read them, because i don't have anything to do with the world of software development. i guess i found those articles featured on the mailing list to be interesting and insightful, and i've never gotten around to unsubscribing :p anyways, one of the more recent articles announced the launch of the aardvark'd dvd - a documentary about how "Four interns are brought into Manhattan and given 12 weeks to design, develop, debug and ship a program that will change the way computer geeks around the world fix their friends' computers. Boondoggle Films presents a journey through the world of software development from the perspective of a unique upstart, four quirky interns, and the world of The Geek." maybe it's the last two words (and how they hit on my inner aspirations! haha) that did it for me, or maybe i just happened to be so underwhelmed by your typical multiplex films, but i was almost going to order a copy after checking out the trailer (ahh the cool things you can do with video google :). oh, and it probably did help that i had been following (some of) the progress of aardvark. i nearly fell off my chair when i saw the shipping costs to get from the states to here though... then i realised i was looking at the priority service -- normal post is less than 1/10th of the price :p still... ~USD$25 for something i'm probably only ever going to watch once, and quite likely never be able to share with anyone (i can't imagine too many people jumping at the chance to watch such a doco just for the heck of it).


i've purchased 3 DVDs on ebay. today i realised i've fallen prey to modern day pirates (of the electronic kind), for two of these discs are fakes. i recently decided to buy a copy of the soong sisters movie after coming across this blog entry, reading a bit about their story, and realising that i did recall this movie coming out some time ago but it had since fallen off my radar (and it's been about 8 years since the movie's release!). figured that even if the movie itself isn't earth-shattering, it'd at least be interesting to learn a bit more about the lives of these prominent people in china's history (to the extent that such things can be/are accurately portrayed in a commercial movie). the movie arrives and suspicions are aroused upon closer inspection - check out the photo of the dvd itself for instance. besides the atrocious spelling and grammatical errors (of which i count 8) on the disc, and the rather cheap look of the media itself (a bit subjective, and hard to describe/capture on photo... although vso inspector does confirm it to be a pressed rather than burnt disc), consider the following:
  1. at the very top of the disc, next to maggie cheung's head (middle woman), and a bit cut off, is maggie's chinese name in simplified chinese - everywhere else on the cover her name is written in traditional chinese, as it should be for something coming from HK. i have been unable to find any photos/images of the actual dvd to confirm what the disc should look like (can only find pics of the dvd box cover), but this makes me think that what i'm seeing is a non-genuine dvd label printed with artwork lifted from something used to promote the movie in china itself.
  2. next, consider the four little boxes near the bottom of the disc. the second box displays a logo which reads "compact disc digital video". from what i've been able to find out, this logo "may only be used on discs complying with the Video-CD specifications: the Philips-JVC-Matsushita-Sony Compact Disc Digital Video Specification (the WHITE Book)." now this is talking about compact disc media, thus this logo should NOT appear on a DVD!
  3. moving along to the right, the logo accompanying the "5.1 SURROUND" text is wrong. there is a similar logo on the box cover, which at least features 6 distinct black squares representing the 5+1 speakers (but which i think is also wrong because it has an additional white square, which doesn't match with any logos i've been able to find used by/for dolby-related purposes. anyways, the logo on the disc itself only has 4 squares/speakers! not quite the 5.1 claimed...
  4. then there's the region code logo... the one on the disc says it's region 1. the box says it's all regions. vso inspector says it's all regions. another printing mistake? the ebay seller asks me to "please excuse the manufacture's quality control" for the spelling errors, and claims to have spoken to the manufacturer about hiring a proofreader, citing the difficulties of finding "talented people to work for so little wages in asia". schyeah... for a pirating operation this may be a valid argument, for a big corporate body like mei ah (where this DVD is "supposed" to have come from), the line is a lot less likely to be swallowed.
  5. lastly the 3 chinese characters printed below these logo boxes... at first i thought it was 非毒品, which means something like "not drugs/poisonous". besides the obvious question of what in the world something like this is doing on a DVD, i also realised after pondering a moment that the middle character doesn't match up to what i originally thought it said... and that a homonym of 读, meaning "(to) read", had been substituted - another printing mistake?? but then a second closer look reveals that it's not even that character... it looks like the character for read but doesn't have the left radical. from what i've been able to find it's not a proper word without one of a few radicals with which it can be paired.
and there's more! as i've been typing this i've looked closer at the cover, and there's a mixture of traditional and simplified chinese printed... rather strange. plus the discovery of more english typos. and how the front cover very closely resembles, but consistently fails to 100% match, images i'm seeing of the proper artwork. the strong weight of evidence points to the work of a semi-professional pirate operation, albeit one lacking even basic QA, but with access to decent photoshopping (or similar) resources, and DVD manufacturing (stamping and printing) capabilities. anyhow, in the midst of researching and gathering evidence to discern genuine vs. pirated DVDs, i came across advice suggesting that my other purchase is also a dud. upon further checking, i slumped my shoulders and concede to being had... funny that the seller from that transaction is no longer registered on ebay? i don't know if that person was actively involved or just a pawn in the bigger game, but i was mildly surprised (maybe i was being a bit naive on this point) to discover a forum thread where sellers were openly discussing strategies to maximise their piracy profits via ebay...


enough ranting and gripes. let's end on a more positive note... i leave you with some recent video discoveries worth checking out (for the broadband enabled):
  1. baby got book - a humorous parady of sir mix-a-lot's song, reworded to encourage more reading of the good book.
  2. incredible dribble - maybe some of the roar players could learn some control from this guy, showing off his skills with a soccer ball.
  3. nba tv broadband - delivering all the highlights from the nba. not that i follow, but there's some pretty basketball to be seen here :)


  1. Nice pick up on the DVD' when my DVD comes in from eBay I'll have to check that...

  2. yeah hopefully i'll avoid the traps next time! here's a few more links with tips on spotting the fakes. use/apply at your own discretion :)