February 10, 2012

That's Low, George. Solo.

George Lucas has come forward to set the record straight for all those of you who were wondering--Greedo shot first. Of course some of us weren't wondering. I was one of the many who saw it in the theater when it fist came out. Lucas can talk about his intentions until the Death Star flotsam reaches the outer ridges of that galaxy far, far away, but what was there on the screen was large as life and pretty damn clear. Han shot first. Greedo didn't shoot at all.

Now I don't know why Lucas continues to fuck with his films. Honestly, I don't. If I had to make a guess, I'd say it was something psychological, some form of OCD. Or maybe it's just because he can. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter. I'd even argue that Lucas' "intentions" don't matter. I've heard people argue that they're his movies, so what he says goes. But that's not entirely true, in my opinion. When an artist creates art, he can tweak it and fix it and reinterpret it as much as he wants privately, but once he puts it out there, it belongs--at least in part--to the public. If Leonardo was alive today, we wouldn't let him and his paintbrush back into the Louvre because he suddenly realized the Mona Lisa should have had bigger tits.

Authorial intent certainly means something, but it doesn't mean everything. If I write a short story, and you get something out of it besides what I intended you to, then good for you. It doesn't mean you're wrong, and it doesn't mean I've failed in writing my story. Lucas claims we shouldn't see Han as a "cold-blooded killer," but that just shows how distant he's become from these characters, because I'm betting that no one ever saw Han as that. After all, Greedo had his pistol pointed at Han, and had just told him that he was going to enjoy killing him! That's not cold-blooded; that's self-defense. Or look at it this way--if we see that scene as Han being "cold-blooded," what are we to make of Han swooping in out of nowhere during the final battle to destroy the TIE fighter that never fired a shot at him? Isn't that the equivalent of shooting someone in the back? Now, of course he was defending his friend, so we don't fault him, just like we don't fault him when he shot Greedo. First.

One last thought: even if you believe that Lucas has the right to "clarify" his original intentions for the character, it still doesn't change things. Lucas apparently forgot that he had a script. That's the thing about having stuff written down--it makes it pretty easy to see what those original intentions were. This is from the script:

GREEDO: Going somewhere, Solo?

HAN: Yes, Greedo. As a matter of fact, I was just going to see your boss. Tell Jabba that I've got his money.

Han sits down and the alien sits across from him holding the gun on him.

GREEDO: It's too late. You should have paid him when you had the chance. Jabba's put a price on your head, so large that every bounty hunter in the galaxy will be looking for you. I'm lucky I found you first.

HAN: Yeah, but this time I got the money.

GREEDO: If you give it to me, I might forget I found you.

HAN: I don't have it with me. Tell Jabba...

GREEDO: Jabba's through with you. He has no time for smugglers who drop their shipments at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser.

HAN: Even I get boarded sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?

Han Solo slowly reaches for his gun under the table.

GREEDO: You can tell that to Jabba. He may only take your ship.

HAN: Over my dead body.

GREEDO: That's the idea. I've been looking forward to killing you for a long time.

HAN: Yes, I'll bet you have.

Suddenly the slimy alien disappears in a blinding flash of light. Han pulls his smoking gun from beneath the table as the other patron look on in bemused amazement. Han gets up and starts out of the cantina, flipping the bartender some coins as he leaves.

HAN: Sorry about the mess.

See the part where Greedo shoots? Neither do I.

February 04, 2012

A Good Way To Solveig Your Problem

As you guys know, I occasionally will deal with techie stuff here. Usually, it's how to fix something, but today I have a software review and a recommendation.

For a while now, I was using the SolveigMM AVI Trimmer + MKV to edit my various video files. It's a great program, and to top it off, it's freeware! That alone is enough to make me recommend their products. It's a very fast (and lossless) way to trim unwanted scenes from your AVI or MKV files.

I recently, however, got a chance to try the full version of their paid program, the SolveigMM Video Splitter, and as much as I like the freebie, I'll never go back to it.

To begin with, the Splitter works with more formats than AVI/MKV, so you can easily edit those pesky WMVs or MP4s, among others. (The full list of compatible files can be found at the above link.) That gives me more options when editing recordings made with my TV tuner card, which have to be converted from the WTV format.

In addition, with the splitter, you have a number of options when saving your edited segments. You can save individual segments, save all selected segments as one file, or use the built-in batch processor to edit now, process later. There's also an included video joiner that can join separate segments, assuming that the two files have the same characteristics.

The best thing about the program, though, is that for certain formats (not AVI, sadly) you can edit with frame accuracy. That is, instead of having to cut the segment at a K-frame (key frame), which could leave you with extra frames in your segment, you can actually cut a segment at an individual frame. Okay, let me just say that although that probably sounded like I knew what I was talking about, I'm not quite sure I did. I DO know, however, that it works, and works well.

The GUI itself is fairly user friendly, and if you've used any kind of editing software, you should have no problem figuring it out. the program window is resizeable, and you can preview your file as you work. There's even an optional "storyboard" function, which will show frames of the file to aid in finding that exact spot you need. My second complaint (the first being the lack of frame accuracy with AVIs) is that, while the storyboard is a great feature, the images are too small. I'm on a 22" monitor, and have a little trouble making them out. I hope that a resizeable storyboard is something they'll consider adding in the future because I'd much rather give up a little preview window size for an increased storyboard.

One other thing I should mention is the support. The response time to my inquiry was a quick two days (and that, I'm assuming, would have been shorter if not for the weekend), and they even sent a follow up email. There is also a user forum, and from what I could tell, it was visited regularly by the administrators. 

I just can't stress how fast and easy using this program is. I managed to trim the commercials out of an hour-long program in a matter of minutes. (I recommend learning and using the key commands, as I've found them to be a lot faster overall.) I joined together two consecutive episodes of a show with no problem,as well. (Take that, cliffhangers!) The two minor issues I have with the program are simply that--minor. Ultimately, the SolveigMM Video Splitter is well worth the money if you do any kind of video editing.

Solveig also makes a number of other video-related programs, and if you go to their website, you can find descriptions, comparisons, screenshots, and some very clear "how-to" pages, to help you do exactly what you want to do. Very impressive.

UPDATE: While double-checking my info on the Solveig website, I saw that it looks like you can also re-index WMV files, as well. I haven't tried that yet, but if that's an available option, consider my thumbs up even higher.