Alice Breaks The Chains At Dodge Theatre

February 18, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Posted in Concert, Review, Rock, Theater/Theatre | Leave a comment
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I’m happy to report that rock ‘n’ roll as we know it is still alive and kicking ass.

Alice In Chains

Warm up act Creature With the Atom Brain sounded pretty tight with a solid back beat. However, the guitars and melodies were probably more suitable for an all day festival where you could really get into a nice groove a la Deep Purple. Their stage set consisted of nothing but a big black curtain behind them and 8 moving lights in the front which were limited to color and iris changes. But hey, as an opener even being allowed iris changes isn’t always guaranteed.

As their set ended a big white drape came down in front so the set change could happen in privacy. Turned out that it really wasn’t just a privacy screen. Alice In Chains used it to project their shadows on as they opened their show. Definitely caught me off guard, and looked really damn cool.

That shadow screen dropped to reveal what we called a rock concert back in the day. With Sean Kinney pounding the skins and Mike Inez on bass; an incredibly tight, awesomely loud vibe filled the room at Dodge. I’m sure that had a lot to do with the fact the pit chairs were removed for Standing Room Only GA Pit admission. Something we almost never see anymore.

Jerry Cantrell’s definitive guitar sound and new vocalist William Duvall let us know immediately that Alice In Chains is back in full force. That was a big relief, as I’m sure many of my fellow concert-goers were unsure that AIC could rock like they did before the loss of frontman Layne Staley in 2002.

Opening with old, familiar tunes brought even the seated crowd to their feet, where they stayed all show. Familiar material dominated the first half of the show before they threw in new material from Black Gives Way to Blue at us. even though the new stuff was unfamiliar to me I can tell you it kicks ass. William has a great voice for rock in roll, though he did let us know he was “sick as a fucken dog”.  That definitely accounts for his voice tiring a bit near the end.

Like I said above, this was definitely a rock concert. Moving lights were the order of the day. Looked like perhaps a mix of Vari-lites and some cool new stuff from High End Sytems including three DL-3 projectors and some fancy LED automated wash luminaires. I’ll have to see if Mike Baldassari can give me specifics. Update: Mike did get me some specifics. I was wrong on the Vari-lites. The majority of the movers used were actually Martin MAC 700’s. I knew something was different about their shape, but I didn’t grab any pictures – sometimes its hard to guess make/model numbers by memory.

Those DL-3’s are ultra-cool little units. They look like a standard moving light, but they pack some secret weapons. Namely, the ability to project and shoot full motion video. That means they can film the band and project them on any surface they can reach. They’re bright, so they can reach just about anything in the theatre, too.

Concert audio was supplied by the standard Dodge line array system (not sure of manufacturer – EAW perhaps? I’ll have to ask the guys next time) which, for the most part, sounded great because of all the standing people really tightening up the bass. It had some fleeting moments where the high mids broke up slightly and I’m starting to wonder if perhaps my “usual seats” might be a “weird spot” for those frequencies in particular, or if the system could use just a tad more headroom (insert standard soundman joke here).

All in all it was another great concert at Dodge Theatre. As usual, we took the light rail down there and I definitely encourage you to do the same as its very convenient and costs less than parking in the garages!

~~I’m throwing some photos up on the photo page but be aware that Dodge has a policy against ultra-zoom cams so these are done with a tiny pocket cam~~

Modern 3D Formats – What’s the Difference?

January 20, 2010 at 1:00 am | Posted in Movies, Photography, Theater/Theatre | 1 Comment
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Let’s get one thing straight right from the start. I’m talking about modern 3d Cinema here, not the old-school stuff with the different colored lenses, nor some DVD you are trying to watch on your home television.

Modern 3d, a la Avatar, is done with a little more finesse nowadays. 3D nowadays is usually done with polarized lenses, not colored jobbies. Yes, polarized, like a camera filter or those cool fishing glasses that let you see into the water. Same idea. Every company has a slightly different take on it…this is how patent lawyers stay in business.

The differences are in the details.

Real-D uses a circular polarization. That gives the benefit of being able to maintain the third-dimension illusion if you tilt your head. It’s digital. It uses one projector.  Movies can be transmitted to the theater, or sent on esy to transport and store materials. That means its relatively cheap to upgrade a theater to incorporate. It also means that a theater must use a silver screen (as opposed to current tradition of white) for the best effect, otherwise too much light gets lost and the movie gets dark. The big advantage to us is: it’s sharp. No dust bunnies on the film, as there is no film. The disadvantage is, its just a bit higher resolution than your HDTV and its way bigger.

Traditional IMAX…uses really big film. 70mm film, but it is shown sideways as opposed to vertical, so it has a massive area. It is 15 perforations wide, as opposed to the 5-wide it would be if it was vertical. See…BIG. That means BIG Screens (5 or more stories high and 7 or more stories wide). That also means big equipment like forklifts and specially trained personnel to work all the fancy gizmos in the projection booth. Of course, that means big overhead expenses – hence big ticket prices. Disadvantages to the audience, besides high prices,  are: you can’t tilt your head and maintain the illusion. If your theater uses fancy electronic shutter glasses (not sure any still do) they are bulky (although cool from a techie standpoint). Seating is different than what you are used to. Your ankle will be at the level of the head in front of you…steep seating angles, a disadvantage if you are in a wheelchair or are mobility impaired. The advantage of IMAX? It’s BIG. It has totally awesome uncompressed audio tracks pumped thru massive multi-channel surround systems. Totally immersive.  It’s on film. Resolution is NOT a problem.

Multiplex IMAX (referred to by some as minimax or LieMax) is a  new creation. Some are digital, some are true IMAX film. The system is designed to retrofit multiplex and mall theatres.  The screens are NOT massive like traditional IMAX. The seating is somewhere between your normal theater and the highly-raked traditional IMAX. The price is probably more than a competing 3D format across the hall, maybe as much as a traditional IMAX. If its a digital IMAX, it will use 2 projectors, rather than one. This may be brighter than the competitors in theory, but has some drawbacks in actual practice if things aren’t “just so”. Still can’t tilt your head, due to the linear polarized glasses IMAX likes so much.

Dolby 3D: Similar in concept to REAL-D, with some minor technical differences…you can look up more details yourself if you really care to. Keep this in mind…Dolby likes to patent processes. They have a certain way of doing things. Those things have a way of sticking for the long haul. Tape recorders ended up with Dolby C and/or B, your A/V receivers at home have Dolby Pro Logic or Dolby Digital, or those plus Dolby-“whatever”. They become the standard in a lot of media applications! James Cameron used this 3D format at the Avatar world premier (although tweaked a bit from what you might find at your local multiplex). ‘Nuff said.

Xpand 3D: Don’t know what to say here. Haven’t seen it. The Hollywood Arclight Dome (a favorite amongst movie buffs) is using it for Avatar with mixed reviews. Not sure how astute or trustworthy those reviewers are. Word has it that Disney, PIXAR and ILM have this sytem in their screening rooms. I wouldn’t count these guys out just yet. I’m sure Lucas is working on a way to try to one-up Cameron…so…keep your eyes on these guys. Keep in mind that REAL-D has an immense foothold on the majority of current theatres…but that’s not to say that this one won’t sneak into some “premier” locations…heck its going thru a trial by fire at the Dome as we speak.

Digital 3d: Anybody’s guess as to what’s driving this generic stuff. One local theatre chain here is using all-digital Barco projection equipment that is getting rave reviews and the theatre tells me the 3D system there is made by Imagemaster. Seems to be a REAL-D-like system made by a small upstart company and is cheaper than any of the “big names”.

So, now that you have a primer…go see Avatar, again. See it differently than you saw it last time. Back in the day Lucas marketed THX with “The Audience Is Listening”…well…when it comes to 3D formats nowadays, the Difference is in the Details. The levels of brightness and immersiveness are something you have to experience for yourself. I personally love traditional IMAX with its ultra big, ultra bright film, ultra-enveloping-sound but I really enjoyed the way REAL-D drew me into the film, rather than thrust it out at me.

BEWARE FAKE IMAX!

May 12, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Posted in Movies | Leave a comment
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Aziz is Bored – REBLOG THE FUCK OUT OF THIS. WARNING: AMC theaters are running FAKE IMAX’s and charging $5 extra for a slightly bigger screen. Boycott IMAX, AMC, and Regal. Don’t let them fool you..

Well, Aziz has brought to the public’s attention what I have been complaining to my friends about forever. Fake IMAX sucks. And those blockbusters you are watching on them are rarely shot in IMAX format. They are converted to it, digitally. It’s similar to the way your home theatre equipment takes your old VHS tapes and “upconverts” them to display at a higher resolution on your big-screen TV or projector. In the “LieMAX” or fake IMAX format this is projected on a rectangular screen similar to your widescreen TV, using twin DLP projectors. In REAL IMAX this digital conversion gets printed on 70mm film and is projected on a square screen. Blockbuster movies such as Star Trek that are not shot with IMAX cameras will not utilize the upper and lower parts of a real IMAX squarte screen. It will letterbox, just like a standard4:3  TV. Movies that incorporate actual IMAX camera footage, such as The Dark Knight, will project letterboxed until the actual IMAX footage displays, filling the entire screen.

Hey, I have nothing against upconversion. I’ve been mesmerized by Faroudja video processors since I got my first laserdisc player. But I’m also a proponent of Real 70mm film, too. If you lived in Phoenix back in the days of the Original Cine Capri and got to see Blade Runner or Star Wars in 70mm mag-stripe – you understand what I mean. If you have never seen a 70mm film other than your multiplex fake IMAX…you need to.

The point Aziz and many others are noticing and complaining about is this is not the traditional IMAX experience. The screen is not ginormous, they don’t do the cool spotlight stuff showing you the speakers (44 of them) and their locations. They don’t warn you that motion sickness can be prevented by putting your head between your legs temporarily. Real IMAX does that.

Real IMAX is supposed to be 6-8 stories tall. Sometimes its projected on a dome which is called OMNIMAX (domed screens have some drawbacks when presenting traditional movies like Star Trek – it will warp the normally rectangular frame). The screen is supposed to be bigger than your field of view…that’s what can induce the motion sickness.

So, here’s what you do if you have never seen REAL IMAX before – go down to your local science museum and watch one! That’s where they usually are, although they can be found in City Centers, standalones, casinos – all kinds of places. But, if you have a decent science museum in your city, you should have REAL IMAX.

It probably won’t be showing Batman, or Star Trek or any other DMR film, but trust me…just pay the 12 bucks to see anything. Most IMAX films are about 40 minutes long, not 2 hours. They are expensive to film, so they are expensive to watch. Just watch. You can watch grass grow in IMAX and be totally thrilled to have experienced it…that’s where their tagline “the IMAX experience” came from. It used to be an experience! Still is, at the right place! However, as Aziz points out in his blog – AMC and Regal are not the right places.

Oh, and if you are in San Diego – the Reuben H Fleet Science Center has an awesome IMAX, with the newest nanoseam technology screen IMAX has…I haven’t been there in 20 years, but with the new technology screen – its on my list to do this summer.

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