Monthly Archives: August 2011

Throwback Tuesday: 2008 Hamburg Film Festival

For this week’s Throwback Tuesday, I’m moving back to 2008 to share what would’ve been my favorite ad of the year, if I had run a blog back then.

German studio Sehsucht (if there’s a German reading this post, please tell me how it’s supposed to be pronounced) created an incredible commercial promoting Hamburg’s annual film festival. The one-minute ad is a perfect mixture of pristine cinematography, spectacular visual effects and beautiful motion design, all flawlessly composited together, accompanied by an immersive soundtrack.

The short film expresses perfectly the various styles found in modern cinema, such as suspense, romance, horror, drama and more.

Late congratulations on a job well done, Sehsucht.

Google+ will not kill Facebook

This is a strange post for me to right. 16 months ago, I was sitting by the pool at the house we rented in Costa Rica with 3 of my best friends. It was late, 3, maybe 4 o’clock. We had had one huge party, and only the 4 of us were still up, still sipping one last rhum&coke. It was quiet, the mood (and the alcohol) was favorable for deep discussions. We talked about everything that came up on our minds, and eventually started talking about Facebook. Back then, I was convinced that Facebook had less than 5 years to live, that something better would come up shortly. I didn’t know what, but I knew Facebook was meant to disappear. All of my friends kind of disagreed.

Today, that “something better” has arrived, and it’s called Google+. The question is, do I still think that Facebook is meant to disappear ? The answer is no.

Everyday I see a new “social media expert” going public, saying that, according to Google+’s features, Facebook won’t be able to keep up and could soon face the same fate that MySpace has gone through in the past years.

Can people come back to Earth, remove the stardust stuck in their eyes from all the Google+ buzz, and start thinking straight from a moment ? I think I’m going to kick in the nutts the next person who tells me “Google+ reached 25 million users in a month, Facebook took 3 years to reach that number of users”. Yeah, guess what, if I start composing the best music the world has ever heard in my basement, chances are I won’t sell more than 5 copies of my album the first week I release it. On the other hand, Lady Gaga can produce the biggest piece of shit of a pop album in 3 days, release it on iTunes and will most likely sell close to a million copies on the first week it hits the shelves. Facebook was created by 3 geeks in their Harvard dorm; Google+ was created by the biggest Internet company in the world, which also happens to have a spot in the Fortune 500 companies. Yeah, Google kinda had a head start.

What also scares people is that they saw what happened to MySpace once Facebook came around, and now they can’t help to fear that this is what is going to happen to Zuckerberg’s empire. Without pretention, I tend to say that these people have no clue what the hell they’re talking about. Am I the only one here that sees what Facebook has become, compared to what MySpace was ? Facebook is no longer the website to only post your drunk photos from the night before (I know, there is still some of that), it has become the biggest sharing platform in the world. There are over 30 BILLION pieces of content shared every month on the website. I learned about the recent Oslo bombing 12 minutes after it happened, and guess where I saw the news…Facebook. My parents watched the 6 o’clock news that night and saw it there, several hours after I had read the endless number of detailed articles that were linked straight from Facebook (and a bit of Twitter too). Facebook is the news, Facebook is the biggest photo album, Facebook is a gaming platform, Facebook is everything.

MySpace had many flaws. It was hard to use at first, it required customization that came with complicated code, it loaded slow as hell even on a high-speed internet connection, and so on. Plus, back in the days, MySpace was far from being as popular as Facebook. It was a rare thing to meet someone back then who had a MySpace. Personally, a very small portion of my friends and people and I know were on MySpace. Today, meeting someone without a Facebook is pretty much like meeting someone without a cellphone. EVERYONE is on Facebook, from pre-teens, to grandparents, to artists, companies, organizations, people even make Facebook pages for their dogs and cats. I see some people who have their father, mother, aunt, uncle, and the rest of the family interacting on their Wall, something I would have never imagined I’d see in my entire life.

Speaking of these family members, does anybody really think that a 74-year-old Grandpa, who hardly even knows what is an internet connection, but who managed to get his grandson to create a Facebook page for him, is going to make the switch to Google+ ? Please, don’t even bother answering. Facebook has spread to people who barely use computers, just because it is now a worldwide phenomenon.

Let’s take a look at both social media interfaces.

See any similarities ? Google+ has pretty much copied Facebook pixel by pixel, so what do you think will happen with all the shiny new features that Google+ offers? Yes, Facebook will copy them, and just like that, Facebook will always be more complete than G+ will ever be.

Facebook has 750 millions users, that’s about 11% of the world’s population. Off that, remove the 500 million people that are considered to live in total poverty, remove almost a billion people in China who have their own social network, QZone, and that percentage increases a lot. Yes, 25 million users is huge, but it’s far from a number that would make Zuckerberg lose sleep over. Eminem has twice as many Facebook fans than Google+ has normal users, so they have a long way to go.

To me, Facebook has now become to social media what McDonald’s has become to fast-food, what Wal-Mart has become to retail stores, what the iPod has become to portable music players. If someone would launch a new internet search engine, would you think it stood a chance against Google ? The same goes for new social networks, and whether it’s Google starting a new one or some unknown geek, it’s too late.

Jay-Z & Kanye West: Watch The Throne review

Where to begin ? This album has been on everyone’s lips for so long, and it looks like it was one hell of a journey for Jay-Z and Kanye West to release their first collabo album, Watch The Throne. With an initial release date scheduled for last January, to a delayed tour accompanying the album’s launch supposedly due to a feud between the two artists, to reaching a milestone as being the first hip-hop album to not be leaked on the Internet before its release in several years, there’s no need to say that Watch The Throne has become 2011’s most anticipated album. Well, this morning, at 12:00am precisely, the album released exclusively on the iTunes Store (it actually leaked on ThePirateBay.org 40 minutes before its iTunes launch, but still…).

At midnight, I pressed the “Buy” button on iTunes and started listening to this album that I’ve awaited for so long, since Jay-Z and Kanye West are two of my favorite artists of all-time. At first, Watch The Throne is no different than Kanye’s latest work, in the sense that you don’t know exactly what to think about what you just heard. I was anxious to write this review, but I decided to use what little amount of patience I have to listen to the album several times before publishing this.

We think we now know what to expect from Kanye since the creativity/insanity on my My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Forget it. You don’t know what to expect from WTT. Mr. West produced the majority of the album, and you can easily tell, since it sounds a lot more like his latest musicality than Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3, even though there are shades of Shawn Carter’s influence throughout. One thing is sure, both rappers will make you go through a variety of different emotions that you will not feel on many other albums in the entire music industry, ever.

The album starts off with the deep, powerful track No Church in the Wild, which is sure to give you shivers on the first listen. Not only are the melody and the Frank Ocean-sung chorus bewitching, the lyrics will hit you like a first-round punch from Mike Tyson. Jay-Z and Kanye warn you very early on that they will not hold back on anything, they will say whatever they want to say about religion, drugs, ethics, politics, lifestyles and the list goes on. “Coke on her black skin made a stripe like a zebra, I call that jungle fever” and “When we die, the money we can’t keep, but we prolly spend it all ’cause the pain ain’t cheap” are the opening and closing lines of Kanye’s first verse, leaving the door open for a lot more to come on the 12-track album (16-track if you buy the Deluxe Version).

And just when you think you get the idea of what the album is going to be, The Throne duo switch it up with tracks going from Electro Hip-Hop, to heavy club beats, to super-vintage notes, to melancholic melodies and so on. There was a slight deception for me on the second track, Lift Off featuring Jay-Z’s wife, Beyonce. With these 3 artists on the same track, you expect to have one of the best songs of 2011, and Lift Off barely makes it to the “good song” status. But if you can get through that, the ride keeps getting better and better after.

One of the biggest surprises on the album is clearly the amount of Auto-Tune/Voice distortion that was used. After Jay-Z’s track “Death of Auto-Tune”, you would expect Watch The Throne to be very raw in the singing/rapping aspect of it, but it definitely isn’t. West plays with voices like Jackson Pollock plays with paint, and it really adds another dimension to the album’s production, even for a not-a-fan-of-autotune like me.

Speaking of singing/rapping, Kanye and Jay really mix it up through the album. Going from separate verses on some songs, to exchanging line after line on some other tracks, their lyrical prowesses are astonishing. Jay-Z is in very good shape throughout the album. If we leave aside a couple of fortune-claiming rhymes and crack-selling stories that are getting kind of old, Jay-Z’s flow is so impressive that it sometimes overshadows West’s performance. But Kanye quickly strikes back with raw, honest words and lines that seem more thought-through than Jay’s. Even if we tend to compare the two, the album does not feel like a competition at all, but really more like a symbiosis. KW and Jay-Z complete each other as well, even if not better than Run-DMC or Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg back in the days.

It would be a shame to close this review without spending a few lines about the song New Day. This track, co-produced by the RZA, will go down in history as a classic, if there is still such a thing as a classic in the saturated music industry nowadays. The song is a tribute/message to both Kanye and Jay-Z’s unborn, unconceived sons. While Kanye explains what he will protect his son from, Jay apologizes in advance for the tough stardom-lifestyle that his son will have to live through because of him. The song is incredibly touching and the RZA-Kanye production has a feeling of nostalgia that completes the dialogue perfectly.

The expectations for Watch The Throne were sky-high. Did Jay-Z and Kanye West meet them ? I think this question will never be answered, because a 2007 Kanye West fan or a 2001 Jay-Z fan will definitely not like the album as much as more recent listeners will, but one thing is sure, it is meant to cause discussions, questioning and controversy, and that are usually factors of great music. With the creativity he once again brought to the table with this album, Kanye West just bought a one-way ticket into the contemporary music Hall-of-Fame, while Jay-Z’s already top-name status has just been solidified and confirmed. Hip-hop fan or not, this record is one to listen to again and again and put besides some of the greatest of modern music history.

IF3 Photoshoot

I was recently hired by Felix Rioux from IF3 (International Freeski Film Festival) to shoot their new teaser for the 5th edition of the festival, on which I will do another blog post later, because the vid is not yet finished, even less launched.

For an ex-ski-movie producer like me, this was a nice experience, because it involved shooting with some of the top names in freeskiing right now. I had the chance to shoot with skiing’s most decorated athlete, Tanner Hall, Sean Pettit, Henrik Harlaut and Paul Bergeron, who actually used to be in my movies back in the days.

At the same time, my mandate was also to snap a few pictures of the riders wearing the new Snooz Bandanas they’re putting out this year. Since this was a complement to the video shoot, we had very little time and means to do this photoshoot, so we really had to improvise with what was available around. Fortunately, there were some nice abstract paintings in the house where the riders were staying, so I was able to take them down and use them as backdrops.

I had no flash setup available, so I had to manage the ambient light that was inconstant at the end of the day.

I tried shooting with my Zeiss 50mm f1.7, but the small size of the backdrops was a pain for the lens’ focal length. I had to resort to my Canon 85mm f1.8, by far the lens I’m the least experienced with, because it’s a very hard lens to shoot video with, and that is clearly what I do the most with my T2i. I had a hard time handling the very sensible focus, even at f5.0. When I looked at the shots on my computer, many of the pics I thought were the best were finally a bit out of focus, but I was able to get a couple of very good ones.

Here are the 4 best:

Tanner Hall

Sean Pettit

Paul Bergeron

Henrik Harlaut

Jonathan Desbiens, director

A Facebook contact of mine shared this morning a link to one of his friend’s website/portfolio. The person in question was Jonathan Desbiens, a film director from Shawinigan, QC, and a name I had often heard of but never really took the time to look at his work.

So, curious as always, I decided to check out Jodeb’s (his nickname) website, only to be completely astonished by its content. Not only is there some incredible cinematography among his many pieces, there is also some top-caliber 2D and 3D animation that would make heads turn at any big Californian studio. There is this kind of unique feel to all his shots that gets out of the very commercial mold that is a la mode these days. What is even more impressive is how young he is. Normally, I tend to leave the age factor out of anything, because in my mind, if you have talent, you have talent, no matter if you’re 10 or 60 years old. But this will be the exception on this statement, because his work shows a maturity that I have never seen in someone who is 25 years-old.

He’s also already working with some of the biggest production companies from Montreal (and elsewhere), like 401 and Alt Productions, and handling world-renown clients like Air Canada, Bell, and Geodezik, the company with who I worked on the Whitney Houston project in early 2010.

This really was a pleasant discovery this morning, and Jodeb just became someone I really look up to considering my age, and someone that I will make sure to follow his work closely.

Here is his demo reel.