Monthly Archives: October 2007

Review: Transformers

(Yeah, I know I’m months behind 90% of the free world in seeing this one…)

Okay, obviously from the trailers the special effects on this movie were going to be top-notch. But was there really, as the characters are so fond of saying, “more than meets the eye” to this film? Did it have characters you care about? A plot?

Happily, yes, to an extent. It had a decent plot, nicely combining elements of the original cartoon series/movie with some new elements. It was laid out well enough for general movie-goers, who may not have been familiar with what came before, to follow all the necessary elements. It was engaging, if predictable. I cared a bit about the characters, though I didn’t for a second think any major player would really get hurt. I was surprised by the loss of an Autobot (who I’ll leave nameless for those who haven’t seen it). I always liked that character in the cartoons.

But let’s be honest here – the star in this movie was the action and effects. And they did a heck of a job.

The action was choreographed very well, in my opinion. There was more than one scene where I just sat back and said “whoa, that was cool,” and I was referring at least as much to the motion of the characters in the scene as I was to the rendering of those characters. I’m a sucker for acrobatic acts of aggression, and this movie delivered. Plus those actions were being carried out by huge, hulking robots with major firepower – it’s like a dream come true….

Okay, not quite that great, but still pretty freaking cool. Actually, despite all their coolness and realism (within the context, of course), I didn’t like the renditions of the robotic forms as much as I hoped. The visual separation between many of them, with the definite exceptions of Megatron, Optimus Prime, and Bumblebee, was not as distinct as it should have been. I had a hard time keeping the characters straight after transformation.

The effects, though, were unbelievable. I went through the DVD a second time and rewatched about 5 fight scenes in slow motion just to savor the cool. Niiiiiiicce.

I should mention as well, that the very first thing that struck me about this movie, and it was clear from the DVD’s main menu, was that the music was really good. Both my wife and I mentioned it immediately as something reminiscent of Gladitor (one of my all time favorite films). I still have the theme running through my head. The biggest disappointment there was that they chose to go with a hard rock set over the end credits. Bleh. Seems like a wasted opportunity to me. I don’t know… maybe there was only that one good theme, but I liked it.

Anyway… top of the line effects with cool ideas, a decently serviceable story, great cameos, and characters I didn’t hate. The effects alone pull the movie up to a 4 star rating. The rest do nothing to pull it down, but don’t give it the extra push to get any further. So… four stars it is.

[tags]transformers, optimus prime, megatron, starscream, michael bay, film music[/tags]

Trailer: The Dark Knight

Apple – Trailers – The Dark Knight

I can’t believe no one told me this trailer was out.

Okay, visually it’s an extremely boring trailer. Pretty much, it’s the bat-symbol with a light show.

The voice-over, though, is cool. You get to hear the voice of the Joker. Not bad. Just a little Nicholson thrown in there – a slight homage.

This is my “can’t wait” film for 2008.

[tags]Batman, Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, The Joker[/tags]

Lock S-Foils in attack positions

Stay on target.

Some guys got together and built a scale model of an X-Wing fighter from Star Wars, complete with an Artoo unit.

X-Wing (to scale)

Then they strapped 4 rockets to it.

X-wing launch

I’m alright, I’m al…aaaaaahhhhhggggg

Sadly, it ends up in the same shape as most other X-Wings.

If you’re just in it for the money shot, here it is. If you want a better look at it, and slightly too much footage of the aftermath, check out the interview clips.

X-Wing launch

[tags]x-wing, star wars, model rockets, Porkins[/tags]

Free Online Corporate Learning Conference

Free Online Conference – Corporate Learning: Trends and Innovations : eLearning Technology

I am impressed. This is a great example of putting your money where your mouth is. Tony Karrer and George Siemens (and their respective companies) are putting together an online conference for the Learning industry. Some of the top names in the industry will be presenting. And it’s free. All you need to do is register.

Did I mention it’s free? Pulling these people together for a live conference would normally cost you, the attendee, a pretty penny – but not this time.

Quality? Well, I’m sure from a content perspective we have nothing to fear. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them but most of the presenters are among the top thought leaders. Technically…. I’m sure there will be an issue here or there; there always is with technology. And though I could be mistaken, I don’t think anyone’s done anything at this scale before (I’m assuming it will be rather hugely attended).  But I also anticipate those issues will not be widespread.

I love that they’re using free tools to work the announcement and registration process, and for getting user involvement: a blog, a wiki, and email list software are all the components I’ve seen so far. It’s a great example, and a great experiment. Using the wiki to gather discussion ideas is a great idea. I’ve even fixed a typo in Jay Cross’ discussion topic question (you’re welcome, Jay).

I’ll definitely be there. In fact, if possible I’d like my whole team to take part in at least some of it.

[tags]Tony Karrer, George Siemens, e-learning, conferences, free, online[/tags]

Corporate Gaming: Recruiting and training

Corporate eLearning Strategies and Development: eLearnDevCast New Episode with Karl Kapp – GGG4L – Recruiting Gamer Generation

I just listened to a discussion between Brent Schlenker and Dr. Karl Kapp about part of Dr. Kapp’s book (Gadgets, Games, and Gizmos for Learning) where he covers recruiting the “Gamer” generation.

There are some great takeaways from that conversation for me. For example, they were talking about how far into the future companies have to think now to retain competitiveness in recruiting. For example, they were talking about a group focused on science and technology that have to market their fields to middle school students, because middle school grades determine which math classes you take in high school, and that determines what you’re able to take in college. If they don’t grab the kids attention in those early grades, they likely won’t have the background or interest in the field to become productive employees in relevant companies 10 years or more down the line. Developing games that educate in those fields and are engaging and entertaining is one powerful way to start attracting the attention of those potential employees.

The kinds of games I’m talking about here aren’t marketing a specific company, by the way. They’re teaching concepts, facts, and processes that the sponsoring company would find useful. Business concepts, analysis, cost projection, and such are at the basis of popular games like “Roller Coaster Tycoon”. My brother spends most of his time in Madden Football (at least I think it’s Madden) building his team, working with the budget for the stadium, making choices about concessions and tracking attendance, rather than playing the actual football games. He’s making business decisions and having loads of fun doing it.

That’s obviously a long-term strategy. In the short term, what a lot of recruits are looking for now is a company that will provide some kind of engaging networking or socialization opportunity. In fact, it’s something they frequently expect, having grown up with the ability to network through MySpace or Facebook, and to share their knowledge and experiences in different online venues such as blogs, discussion boards, or wikis. At a bare minimum, just the ability to create a personal profile on the corporate intranet might give one company the edge over another, all other things being equal.

That knowledge sharing ability, by the way, would serve not just as a recruiting tool but as a way to capture the experience and knowledge of workers. That’s a hot topic in all corporate circles as people leave for other jobs or retirement – as things stand now, most of the time those years of experience walk out the door with them.

Let’s look at a concrete example of some of this stuff. I work for a very old, very successful printing company. Honestly, we don’t have much of this stuff. We have the same worries that every other company has, though: how do we retain the knowledge of retiring workers? how do we recruit people who have the skills we need when interest in those skills is waning in the general population? How do we keep people once we’ve got them? How can we maximize the knowledge of workers in one part of the company and transfer some of that knowledge to the people who need to support them, or who will eventually take over their roles? How can we manage all this and still remain profitable in an extremely competitive business landscape?

Well, a relatively low cost improvement we could make is some kind of networking software, similar to Facebook. Heck, we could even use Facebook. That would certainly be useful for many of the knowledge workers we have – the ones most likely to be at a computer for a large majority of the day – but would likely be an incentive and possibly productivity tool for at least some of the more labor intensive positions as well. Most people have access to a computer at some regular interval in their lives – even if they don’t have time during their normal work day, many people log on at night and who knows… they might just take a few minutes and check in on some information or answer a question from someone. We’ll never know if we don’t give them the opportunity.

What about skilled laborers? Let’s take a look at Press Operators. These people are responsible for an entire press. Millions of dollars worth of equipment and product, and it’s their job to make sure it all works accurately and efficiently, and produces a high quality product. They have to know how to work technology, understand color theory, process, mathematics, and mechanics. They not only have to understand these from a technical perspective, they have to have an “eye” for color. It’s a complicated job. We have excellent press simulators that let operators train on how to make adjustments and generally work the press, but those are expensive to run and from what I understand only concentrate on the functions of the press itself. What if we made a game – even one that could be sold commercially – that could teach the concepts and processes around the entire position? It could easily be made to be as engaging as something like Roller Coaster Tycoon. It could be used for general recruitment purposes, similar to what I mentioned above, or as more of an introductory training tool. As you successfully deal with one job, the customer gives you more and your reputation grows and you grow more popular and get more contracts, and now you really have to start working on efficiency and minimizing downtime and getting those magazines (or books, or whatever) out the door. Really show the impact your position has on the general welfare of the company. It could be a very powerful game.

There is so much to discuss in this area that books have been written about it. Heck, whole conferences have been convened around the topics. Hopefully I get excited enough, and find enough time, to continue writing my thoughts about it later – after all, this kind of stuff is a part of my job, albeit a part that seems to keep getting lost in the daily drudgery. For now, my kids have awakened from their naps and I have to get back to my weekend.

[tags]e-learning, technology, human resources, recruitment, games, corporate life[/tags]